November 3, 1964: LBJ won big, but it faded quickly
On this day in 1964, Americans voted for president. It was our first election in the U.S., and I recall watching the results with my father on television. My father always said President Johnson would be elected but told me to keep an open mind to what Senator Goldwater was saying.
At the end of the night, the results were a landslide for President Lyndon Johnson, who had succeeded President Kennedy the year before.
The numbers went like this: LBJ got 61% of the popular vote and 486 electoral votes!
In a couple of years, the great landslide of 1964 fell apart because of Vietnam. LBJ avoided the subject of Vietnam in 1964. In fact, he promised not to send troops.
Senator Goldwater, on the other hand, called for a decisive victory. At one point, he said something about using atomic weapons to defoliate the jungle covering the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In retrospect, I wonder how many of the 58,000 G.I.s lost in Vietnam would have been saved if we had hit the Trail hard in 1964–65?
President Johnson ran an effective campaign against Senator Goldwater by painting him as dangerous and unfit to be president.
The GOP made a huge comeback in the 1966 midterms, and the Democrats were in disarray by 1968. LBJ did not seek re-election and was followed by Richard Nixon.
In the end, LBJ won big, but the GOP went on to win seven of the next ten elections.
And last, but not least, we met future governor and president Reagan during the campaign.
On October 27, 1964, Mr. Reagan gave his famous "A time for choosing" speech. It opened the door to his 1966 victory in California and set the table for the presidency.
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