Coat of Arms of John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy, White House color photo portrait-1-
Ted Kennedy

I Like Ike

Dwight D. Eisenhower agrees to run in the 1948 Republican presidential primaries. He and his running mate, Governor Harold Stassen of Minnesota, defeated President Truman in the presidential election. Eisenhower was re-elected in 1952 over Estes Kefauver.

Chaos in 56

In 1956, the Democratic Party was in shambles. There was no frontrunner for the presidential nomination, with W. Averell Harriman, Adlai Stevenson, Estes Kefauver, and Richard Russell all competing for it. At the convention, several rounds of balloting happened while people continued to search for a compromise candidate. Among the many names considered were former President Truman, Pat Brown, and Stuart Symington. Eventually, the Democrats settled on a name they knew: Senate Democratic Leader Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson, an ambitious man, accepted the support of the Democratic leaders and was quickly nominated on the floor. For his running mate, he chose young Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. Although Kennedy was reluctant to accept the nomination, having presidential ambitions of his own, Kennedy believed Johnson would win and that a Johnson victory would make Kennedy a viable candidate in 8 years.

Across the aisle, the Republicans had their own divisions. Vice President Stassen was challenged by upstart Senator Richard Nixon of California. Nixon's campaign was surprisingly successful and at one point, it appeared he would beat Stassen for the nomination. However, by the time of the convention, Stassen was the clear winner. He extended an olive branch to Nixon and asked him to be the running mate. However, Nixon, bitter in defeat, angrily refused. Stassen instead selected Senator Prescott Bush, hoping to gain support in New England and the Northeast to counter Kennedy as Johnson's running mate.

Stassen conducted a very lackluster campaign and failed to establish his position on several issues. His campaign was also hurt by rumors out of the Eisenhower administration that he performed almost no functions in the government. Johnson campaigned extensively in states where Stassen thought he was safe. Additionally, the Johnson campaign was boosted by Kennedy, who did much of the campaigning for Johnson.

Johnson and Kennedy won a comfortable victory over the Republicans, keeping a hold on the south and winning much of the north. 

The Johnson Years

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