Remembering the JFK-Nixon election of 1960

Fifty-three years ago today, Senator John F. Kennedy defeated Vice President Richard Nixon to win the 1960 election.  VP Nixon conceded the next day despite this election being very close.

The JFK-Nixon election was closely followed in Cuba by radio and word of mouth.  My parents and their friends listened for signals from Senator Kennedy & VP Nixon about Cuba. I think that everyone knew by the fall of 1960 that Castro had betrayed the democratic ideals of the revolution.    It was clear from one of their debates that Cuba would be a high priority in the new adminisration for either candidate.

Therefore, I've always had an interest in this election because it had a huge impact on my parents and their decision to depart from Communist Cuba.

The JFK-Nixon election was rated #1 in the Top 10 of close presidential elections

"The election on November 8 remains one of the most famous election nights in American history.

As the early returns poured in  Kennedy opened a large lead in the popular and electoral vote, and appeared headed for victory.

However, as later returns came in from the Western states, Nixon began to steadily close the gap with Kennedy. It was not until the afternoon of Wednesday, November 9 that Nixon finally conceded the election and Kennedy claimed victory.

A sample of how close the election was can be seen in California; Kennedy appeared to have carried the state by 37,000 votes when all of the voting precincts reported, but when the absentee ballots were counted a week later, Nixon came from behind to win the state by 36,000 votes.

In the national popular vote Kennedy beat Nixon by just one tenth of one percentage point (0.1%) - the closest popular-vote margin of the twentieth century. 

Kennedy carried 11 states by three percentage points or less, while Nixon won 5 states by the same margin."

Wonder how many people know how close that JFK-Nixon election was?   The two men were separated by about 113,000 votes, or 49.72% to 49.55%!  

The Kennedy "mystique" is such that many people assume that he was elected by a landslide.  On the contrary, it was a very close election and one wonders what would happened if Nixon had insisted on a recount.   

In fact, I think that the nation owes VP Nixon thanks for not having thrown the country into a chaotic recount, much like what we saw in 2000 between Governor Bush and VP Gore.  One big difference between Gore vs Bush and JFK vs Nixon is that 2000 was about Florida whereas 1960 would have involved several states, such as Illinois and Texas.


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