Study Guide

John F. Kennedy Presidential Campaign

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Presidential Campaign

Following JFK's failed attempt to win the vice presidential nomination in 1956, his political ambitions only heightened; during his next three years in the Senate, Jack spoke frequently with his family and advisers about a potential bid for the presidency in 1960. Thus it was hardly surprising when Jack formally announced his candidacy on 2 January 1960. Though Jack, Bobby, and Joe Sr. strongly believed that Jack could win, he was initially considered a long shot in a crowded field of Democratic competitors that included Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, and Lyndon B. Johnson. Of particular concern was Jack's Catholicism. Time and again, Jack was told that America was a Protestant country unwilling to elect a Catholic to the highest office in the land. Though he was occasionally discouraged by those remarks, Kennedy campaigned with confidence, winning over voters across the country with his charm and easy nature.

Bobby reprised his role as Jack's campaign manager, running a primary campaign that focused on Jack's role as a congressman, war hero, accomplished author, and loving father (Jack's daughter, Caroline, had been born in 1957). At the Democratic Convention, as a result of his unrelenting campaigning in states like Wisconsin and West Virginia, JFK was successful in securing the nomination. He selected Lyndon B. Johnson, an experienced Southern Democrat and the Senate Majority Leader, as his vice presidential running mate. In his acceptance speech on 15 July, Kennedy delivered a message that would set the tone for the remainder of his presidential campaign: "We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of the 1960s—a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils—a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats."

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