The First Modern Campaign

One of the more crucial elections in American History is the Election of 1960. While this election shaped the course of American History for the following eight years, the election itself changed the way in which people would run for president from then on. In his book, The First Modern Campaign, Gary Donaldson outlines the entirety of the battle between the presidential candidates, Democratic Nominee John F. Kennedy and Republican Nominee Richard M. Nixon. In his book, Donaldson describes many key factors of the race, including the problems that Kennedy faced being Roman Catholic, Nixon’s attempts to campaign in every state, and the role of television in the election. However, for those that don’t have the time to read through the book, here’s a video covering the highlights.

Many would argue that the key deciding factor in this election was how Kennedy harnessed television (this being the first election in which it was done) and his public image to win the election. While it may not have been the most importing factor in winning the election (after all, Nixon exhausted himself with micromanaging every aspect of his massive campaign), it definitely didn’t hurt Kennedy. In fact, for quite a few people, it was the deciding factor in how they thought the debates turned out. Most who tuned in through radio believed that the debated either ended in a draw or that Nixon was the winner. Those that viewed the television broadcasts, however, thought that the disheveled, sweaty figure of Richard Nixon paled in comparison to the tan, well-rested, confident figure of John Kennedy. The final tally of the popular vote ended with Kenney holding 49.7% of the vote and Nixon holding 49.6%. Guess it just goes to show the effect of technology in an election.


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