WI: JFK Nominated for Vice-President in 1956

I find your central thesis doubtful. Polls showed both candidates in a dead heat throughout the race. Moreover, Kennedy won so narrowly that any number of factors would have swung the election to Nixon: if Nixon had decided not to campaign in all 50 states, if Nixon had not debated JFK, if Nixon had picked a better running mate than Lodge (who was gaffe-prone and did nothing to help Nixon win Massachusetts, where Kennedy had beaten Lodge for the Senate in '52), if Kennedy had picked any running mate other than LBJ (who was most likely the one reason Kennedy carried Texas), if Ike had not been so tepid in his support for Nixon, etc.

In spite of the recession, many Americans were still satisfied with where the country was going under Eisenhower and Nixon could very much have won had he made different decisions during the campaign.
Those are fair points. I think you're saying that my central thesis is that the American people were ready for a change by 1960. Upon reflection, I do think that's overstating it a bit. However, I think you're overstating Dwight Eisenhower's personal popular with the American people in contrast with their satisfaction of the state of the country. You'll note that I did say later on in the post that I did think Dwight Eisenhower could win.

I cite Allan Lichtman's Thirteen Keys to the White House theory a lot but these were the circumstances going into 1960 for the Republicans:
* Poor House midterm showing in contrast to the previous midterm. Democrats gained almost fifty seats.
* No incumbent President running (whatever).
* Recession.
* Real-per-capital does not equal or exceed previous two administrations.
* No major policy change. Nor in the previous term.
* Foreign / Military Failure. The public failure of the U-2 plane going down.
* No Foreign / Military Success to contrast.
* Richard Nixon does not have the charisma of President Eisenhower.

I'll leave off John F. Kennedy's personal charisma because I think that's a double-edged sword. His Catholicism worked against him but it should be stated that Kennedy essentially ran to Eisenhower and Nixon's right by charging them as being soft on Communism.

But really, think about this: a poor House showing, poor short-term economy, poor long-term economy, no major policy initiatives, a public failure on the world stage, no major successes on the world stage, and an uninspiring candidate. That's not fertile ground for an incumbent party to keep powers. These are the factors that matter more than day-to-day polling.
 
Here’s a thought: let’s say Kennedy is damaged or opts out of 1960, how does that affect the West Virginia primary? Does Hubert Humphrey win the state? If so, his streak will likely continue at least a little while longer.

It’s worth noting that this was an era where the winner of the first or first few primary states doesn’t necessarily dictate the winner. Kefauver did very well in 1952 but was blocked at the convention and similarly defeated Stevenson in the first few states in 1956 but ultimately Stevenson came back and defeated him in later states. Humphrey has done nothing to aggravate the party bosses as much as Kefauver but they probably don’t want him as the nominee and could easily block him. This could easily result in exactly the situation that someone like Johnson is hoping for.
 
Those are fair points. I think you're saying that my central thesis is that the American people were ready for a change by 1960. Upon reflection, I do think that's overstating it a bit. However, I think you're overstating Dwight Eisenhower's personal popular with the American people in contrast with their satisfaction of the state of the country. You'll note that I did say later on in the post that I did think Dwight Eisenhower could win.

I cite Allan Lichtman's Thirteen Keys to the White House theory a lot but these were the circumstances going into 1960 for the Republicans:
* Poor House midterm showing in contrast to the previous midterm. Democrats gained almost fifty seats.
* No incumbent President running (whatever).
* Recession.
* Real-per-capital does not equal or exceed previous two administrations.
* No major policy change. Nor in the previous term.
* Foreign / Military Failure. The public failure of the U-2 plane going down.
* No Foreign / Military Success to contrast.
* Richard Nixon does not have the charisma of President Eisenhower.

I'll leave off John F. Kennedy's personal charisma because I think that's a double-edged sword. His Catholicism worked against him but it should be stated that Kennedy essentially ran to Eisenhower and Nixon's right by charging them as being soft on Communism.

But really, think about this: a poor House showing, poor short-term economy, poor long-term economy, no major policy initiatives, a public failure on the world stage, no major successes on the world stage, and an uninspiring candidate. That's not fertile ground for an incumbent party to keep powers. These are the factors that matter more than day-to-day polling.

My point was that the notion that no Republican could have won except Eisenhower is unfounded, given how extremely close Nixon came IOTL.
 
Next opportunity for a Catholic might have been late 60s/early 70s.

At some point, even with different leadership, you're going to run into social unrest and a bad economy. You're also going to have either a prolonged land war in Asia or an administration that "lost" South Vietnam.

Get a young, charismatic Catholic who offers...well, hope and change, and the voters will be ready for it. (OTL 2008 is the perfect analogy.)
 
Here’s a thought: let’s say Kennedy is damaged or opts out of 1960, how does that affect the West Virginia primary? Does Hubert Humphrey win the state?

A lot of the Humphrey votes in WV in OTL were smply stop-Kennedy votes. As Robert Byrd (who supported LBJ) put it, "If you are for Adlai Stevenson, Senator Stuart Symington, Senator Johnson or John Doe, this primary may be your last chance to stop Kennedy." https://books.google.com/books?id=mfYxUPyKPs0C&pg=PT343 (I think this may have backfired, because voters may dislike candidates who they see as simply stalking horses for other candidates.)
 
Next opportunity for a Catholic might have been late 60s/early 70s.

At some point, even with different leadership, you're going to run into social unrest and a bad economy. You're also going to have either a prolonged land war in Asia or an administration that "lost" South Vietnam.

Get a young, charismatic Catholic who offers...well, hope and change, and the voters will be ready for it. (OTL 2008 is the perfect analogy.)

I can see this happening if Nixon wins in 1960 and 1964.
 
I can see this happening if Nixon wins in 1960 and 1964.

Very possible.

A different president in 1960 is likely too late to butterfly the Watts riots or a close analogy. Nixon or Lodge aren't going to defeat North Vietnam and they're not going to back off. The culture in that timeline will look highly familiar to us.
 
A few tidbits for thought:
* In 1962, Arthur Schlesinger released a historical ranking of the Presidents (the first of its kind since 1948). Dwight Eisenhower came in at 21st, tied with Chester Arthur, below Herbert Hoover (19) and Benjamin Harrison (20) and just ahead of Andrew Johnson (22) and Zachary Taylor (23).
In 1962, as today, most historians were liberal Democrats, which would not make high ratings for Ike likely.
 
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In 1962, as today, most historians were liberal Democrats, which would not make high ratings for Ike lightly.
If most historians were liberal Democrats (by which you mean biased) in 1962 as today, then why does Dwight Eisenhower routinely make the top five? And why does Ronald Reagan make the top ten?


I have two takes:
1) In 1962 he was perceived as an inactive figure but as years went on and more documents were unlocked and more interviews were being given we learned more about his Presidency and found new ways to appreciate it?
2) I think it helps to ask what lens he was being viewed through in 1962. Maybe it was liberal/conservative, although how many differences were there in terms of domestic policy between Kennedy and Nixon really? Maybe it was viewed through the lens of the dominant issue: Communism. And Dwight Eisenhower's entry ranking reflects the perception his inability to end the Cold War, justified or not.
 
In 1962, as today, most historians were liberal Democrats, which would not make high ratings for Ike lightly.

Moreover, scholarly rankings of a President should not be taken as evidence of what the general public felt in 1961. Eisenhower was popular enough that despite an economic recession, the U-2 incident, and a charismatic opponent his Vice-President came within a hair's breadth of succeeding him.
 
What's the source for that?
A fee pages from Stanford historian Thomas A. Bailey's *Presidential Greatness* (first edition 1966):

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That the majority of historians were (and are) Democrats does not of course mean that their ratings of presidents should be dismissed. Bailey himself who came up with a forty-three test criterion of greartness did not really disagree so much with Schlesinger's respondents, especially about Washington, Lincoln, and FDR's greatness, thogh he found TR and Wilson at best near-great (he did have a lower opinion of Jefferson and Jackson--foreshadowing more recent historians in this respect!). https://books.google.com/books?id=9YdKX0JvlgwC&pg=PA6 https://books.google.com/books?id=9YdKX0JvlgwC&pg=PA6#
 
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If most historians were liberal Democrats (by which you mean biased) in 1962 as today, then why does Dwight Eisenhower routinely make the top five? And why does Ronald Reagan make the top ten?

In 1962, the historians' liberal inclinations led to a favorability for "activist" presidents--of which FDR was the paradigm, with Jackson (in Schlesinger, Jr.'s The Age of Jackson) seen as a forerunner. This did not exclude all Republican presidents-but Lincoln and TR were the only ones for whom they showed any real enthusiasn. EIsenhower just did not fit that mould--his objectives were largely "negative": preventing war or depression, maintainning New Deal social programs but seeing to it that Democratic "spenders" did not unduly expand them, etc. As time passed, liberals rethought their support of a powerful presidency, thanks to Vietnam and Watergate. Ike's accomplishments of ending the Korean War, the way he underminded Joe McCarthy (or let him destroy himself) and the fact that he avoided further wars (or any major depression) began to take on more significance. The recessions that did happen under Ike--even the most serious, that of 1957-8--didn't look so bad after those of 1974 and 1981-2, let alone the Great Recession of 2008.

Conservatives of course would rank Ronald Reagan much higher than the eleventh place he got among historians in 2000. https://www.c-span.org/presidentsurvey2021/?page=overall (That gradually went up to tenth and then ninth place) That it was as high as it was shows that partisanship isn't everything; there was a recognition that Reagan had changed the course of American politics and policy, even if not in a way to liberal historians' liking. Besides, his helping to end the Cold War, his recognition that Gorbachev represented a real change (contrary to the views of some on the right wing of his party) became more appreciated.

(The most notable thing in the ratings is the decline of Andrew Jackson--very high on the lists of Arthur Schlesinger Sr. and Jr., still in 13th place as late as 2009, down to 22nd now. Obviously, the increasing revulsion at Indian removal played a role here. Likewise, Wilson's instituting segregation in the federal government, which in the 1950s a liberal historian like Arthur Link could see as no more than a blot on his record , became more important. Another factor of course may have been increased opposition to the idea of using military force to keep the world "safe for democracy" after Iraq and Afghanistan. The most unaccountable thing is the high rank JFK gets. Clearly it is based on what historians think he would have accomplished if he had lived longer more than on what his rather brief administration actually accomplished. )
 
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In 1962, the historians' liberal inclinations led to a favorability for "activist" presidents--of which FDR was the paradigm, with Jackson (in Schlesinger, Jr.'s The Age of Jackson) seen as a forerunner. This did not exclude all Republican presidents-but Lincoln and TR were the only ones for whom they showed any real enthusiasm. Eisenhower just did not fit that mould--his objectives were largely "negative": preventing war or depression, maintaining New Deal social programs but seeing to it that Democratic "spenders" did not unduly expand them, etc. As time passed, liberals rethought their support of a powerful presidency, thanks to Vietnam and Watergate. Ike's accomplishments of ending the Korean War, the way he undermined Joe McCarthy (or let him destroy himself) and the fact that he avoided further wars (or any major depression) began to take on more significance. The recessions that did happen under Ike--even the most serious, that of 1957-8--didn't look so bad after those of 1974 and 1981-2, let alone the Great Recession of 2008.
I think this feeds into my point. I absolutely agree that most historians favor "activist" Presidents, but in the case of many (especially Eisenhower) their activism took longer to understand and appreciate, especially when the books and published and the documents are released. It took until "Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower As Leader" for most Americans to know the degree to which he worked behind the scenes to undermine Joe McCarthy. In 1962, there was no way of knowing, nor really did there desperately have to be a reason to know. Along with the Interstate Highway Act and Eisenhower's pursuit of racial justice, we now generally think of Eisenhower as an active President if not necessarily an activist President, but it took time and more information.
 
"Heck, FDR was on one of the biggest loser tickets in 1920 and was elected President 4 times."

David T. above makes a more detailed version of the same point I am going to make.

One of the several electoral records FDR holds is that, to this date, he is the only Vice Presidential nominee on a losing ticket to later be elected President. David T. explains how this happened, but my take is that in 1932 the country got into a situation where the Democratic nominee was going to win, and FDR got to be the Democratic nominee, by running for and winning the race to replace Al Smith as Governor of New York when Smith was the Democratic nominee in 1928. But anyway, FDR is the only Vice Presidential nominee on a losing ticket to make it to the White House. In fact, FDR, Mondale, and Dole are the only Vice Presidential nominees on losing tickets to even get a major party nomination.

So being a Vice Presidential nominee on a losing ticket hurts a politician's chances of being elected later. The 1960 election was so close, that this is probably enough to butterfly away Kennedy prevailing against Nixon, and he may not even get the Democratic nomination.
 
I think the Cuban Missile Crisis is a significant factor in JFK's ranking, in addition to his speaking ability.

I think the Cuban Misslle Crisis was a case of JFK resolving a crisis his own mistakes did much to create. I'm not even talking about the Bay of Pigs, because IMO a successful Bay of Pigs would have created its own problems. https://www.alternatehistory.com/fo...ut-against-cuba-in-1961.398057/#post-13112559 Rather I have in mind his sending Jupiter missiles to Turkey. Admittedly this was simply a reaffimation of an earlier Eisehower decision--but JFK was always free to cancel it (he could justify this by saying that submarine-launched Polaris missiles had made the Jupiters obsolete). Indeed, in 1961 JFK had wanted to cancel the delivery of the Jupiters, and might have done so if not for Khrushchev's renewal of his Berlin ultimatum.

The definitive history is Philip Nash, *The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the Jupiters 1957-1963*. A peculiar thing, noted in that book, is that in June 1959 Eisenhower said something quite prophetic:

"The President said one thing is bothering him a great deal in the present situation, and that is the plan to put IRBMs in Greece. If Mexico or Cuba had been penetrated by the Communists, and then began getting arms and missiles from them, we would...look on such developments with the gravest concern and...it would be imperative for us to take positive action, even offensive military action...He wondered if we were not simply being provocative, since Eastern Europe is an area of dispute in a political sense."
http://books.google.com/books?id=0psBLyiWVuwC&pg=PA63

In the end, it was decided not to pressure Greece into accepting the IRBM's, but the curious thing is that Eisenhower seemed to forget his misgivings when it came to deployment in Turkey (which was the only NATO country really enthusiastic about receiving the Jupiters; Italy accepted them, but reluctantly).

Khrushchev seems to have been obsessed with "US missles in Turkey aimed at my [Black Sea] dacha." https://books.google.com/books?id=3EHqCQAAQBAJ&pg=PA106 A deisre to "even the score," to show that the USSR could also bring missiles to America's "backyard" was not the sole motive of Khrushchev's deploymant but it does seem to have been a significant one.
 
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