WI: Kennedy/Jackson 1960?

According to Wikipedia (a spotty source at best, but let's roll with it), Henry "Scoop" Jackson was the first choice of then-Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy for VP. Kennedy obviously chose Lyndon B. Johnson instead, out of a belief that a southerner was essential to winning the election. But let's say Kennedy ignored this instinct, and went with Jackson after all. Does the Kennedy/Jackson ticket win? What does their support look like in the south? Could this deadlock the EC, or would Nixon/Lodge ultimately defeat them?
 
To my knowledge, George Smathers of Florida was Kennedy's preferred choice in 1960, and intended to replace Johnson with him in 1964.

Without a Southerner on the ticket, Kennedy may have lost the very-close states of Texas and Missouri, but I think he would've won every other Southern states he did win IOTL (they were close but comfortable for Kennedy). If Kennedy loses Texas and Missouri, then it's thrown to the House. That being said, Kennedy would only need one more state to win it outright if he were to lose Missouri and Texas.

Jackson maybe, maybe would have been able to bring in Alaska and/or Washington, but it would be by the skin of their teeth.
 
To my knowledge, George Smathers of Florida was Kennedy's preferred choice in 1960, and intended to replace Johnson with him in 1964.


I honestly do not know why the belief that JFK would have chosen Smathers as his running mate (either in 1960 or if it seemed necessary to drop LBJ from the ticket in 1964) is so widespread here. Maybe it stems from the fact that JFK and Smathers were friends. But presidential candidates have lots of friends whom they know it would be foolish to put on the national ticket. And in any event, according to an interview Smathers gave decades later, the JFK-Smathers friendship was strained by Smathers' decision to run as a favorite son presidential candidate from Florida in 1960. https://books.google.com/books?id=CeldDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA151 (That candidacy made it substantially less likely that JFK would win on the first ballot.)

Putting someone who had signed the Southern Manifesto on the national ticket would be incredibly risky in close northern and border states like Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, where the African American vote could make the difference. LBJ was the ideal running mate because he had southern support yet had not signed the Manifesto--indeed the southerners didn't want him to sign it because they knew that would destroy his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination. LBJ even got the support of some black political leaders like Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., something Smathers could never have gotten. (In addition, there's a fairly obvious reason not to choose Smathers: all the other people seriously mentioned for JFK's running mate--LBJ, Symington, Humphrey, Jackson--were men of stature, men who you could see as president, as was Nixon's running mate Lodge. Choosing someone as obviously unqualified as Smathers would just give a perfect weapon to Nixon, and would hurt JFK with independents.) Even if LBJ declines the vice-presidential nomination, and JFK is insistent on a southerner, there are still southerners less toxic than Smathers in the North, like Albert Gore of Tennessee (which incidentally had more electoral votes in 1960 than Florida--we tend to forget that as late as the 1952-62 apportionment, Florida was still a rather small southern state, not a great electoral vote prize). JFK's about as likely to choose Smathers as Nixon is to choose Bebe Rebozo (his friend--whom he met btw through Smathers…)

As for 1964, the evidence is mixed on whether JFK was planning to dump LBJ, as I note at https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/kennedy-in-1964.440000/#post-16746013 But if he did, it would be for a southern moderate like Terry Sanford, not someone like Smathers. To quote a post of mine:

***
Evelyn Lincoln, Kennedy and Johnson (1968) "As Mr. Kennedy sat in the rocker in my office, his head resting on its back he placed his left leg across his right knee. He rocked slightly as he talked. In a slow pensive voice he said to me, 'You know if I am re-elected in sixty-four, I am going to spend more and more time toward making government service an honorable career. I would like to tailor the executive and legislative branches of government so that they can keep up with the tremendous strides and progress being made in other fields.' 'I am going to advocate changing some of the outmoded rules and regulations in the Congress, such as the seniority rule. To do this I will need as a running mate in sixty-four a man who believes as I do.' Mrs. Lincoln went on to write "I was fascinated by this conversation and wrote it down verbatim in my diary. Now I asked, 'Who is your choice as a running-mate?' 'He looked straight ahead, and without hesitating he replied, 'at this time I am thinking about Governor Terry Sanford of North Carolina. But it will not be Lyndon.'" http://spartacus-educational.com/JFKsanford.htm I have not seen any evidence from Mrs. Lincoln or anyone else that JFK mentioned Smathers in this connection.

As I said, I seriously doubt that JFK intended to drop LBJ from the ticket. But if he did, Sanford would make a lot more sense than Smathers. You want to drop LBJ because he is too much of wheeler-dealer, a man with ethical problems--and you replace him with George Smathers?! Not to mention that JFK had committed himself to the civil rights bill, and was unlikely to choose an opponent of the bill (and a signatory of the Southern Manifesto) as his running mate. And If JFK was going to lead a campaign against the seniority rule, Smathers would be the last man he would want.

https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/underused-political-pods.433842/page-4#post-16308596
 
Last edited:
I doubt that Kennedy/Jackson could win the election. Without LBJ, JFK is guaranteed to lose Texas. And a few other Southern states too, which will be more swayed by the unpledged elector movement. The probable results are either a Nixon victory or a deadlocked electoral college. The House is Democratic, but controlled by conservatives and Nixon has won more states - putting him in a better position to cut a deal with Byrd and become President in 1961.
 
I doubt that Kennedy/Jackson could win the election. Without LBJ, JFK is guaranteed to lose Texas. And a few other Southern states too, which will be more swayed by the unpledged elector movement. The probable results are either a Nixon victory or a deadlocked electoral college. The House is Democratic, but controlled by conservatives and Nixon has won more states - putting him in a better position to cut a deal with Byrd and become President in 1961.

IMO, a Kennedy-Jackson ticket would win (whether or not it would carry Washington state)--either in the Electoral College or in the House. The only area where the lack of LBJ would hurt the ticket would be in the South. But there are surprisingly few states in the South which Nixon lost narrowly. He lost Texas by 2.0 points, SC by 2.48, and NC by 4.22. I doubt very much that Jackson (who, though fairly liberal on civil rights, was not considered as offensive to the South on that issue as, say, Humphrey--indeed, Jackson had joined LBJ and JFK in voting for the jury trial amendment to the 1957 bill and in that respect was more satisfactory to the South than Symington) would cost JFK NC. If JFK only loses TX and SC, he still has 271 electoral votes, more than enough to win. But let's say he also loses NC and also that the Democratic state committee in LA decided on backing unpledged electors, as it almost did in OTL--and the unpledged slate wins. Nixon, even with TX, NC, SC, and the faithless OK elector he lost in OTL, will still have only 266 electoral votes--three short of a majority. (Note that all this assumes that Nixon will still carry WA, which is doubtful.)

So the race goes into the House. The breakdown of the House delegations in the 87th Congress (1961-3) was as follows:

D: AL, AK, AR, CA, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, KY, LA, MD, MA, MS, MO, NV, NM, NY, NC, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, WV--29 delegations
R: IN, IA, KS, ME, MI, MN, NE, NH, NJ, ND, OH, PA, SD, VT, WA, WI, WY--17 delegations
Tied: AZ, CO, MT, OR--4 delegations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/87th_United_States_Congress

I simply cannot see a Nixon victory coming out of this--unless you assume that not a few but almost all of the southern Democratic delegations (including the Upper South ones) will vote for Nixon. I find this extremely dubious. Nixon's civil rights record was arguably more liberal than JFK's (the jury trial amendment of the 1957 civil rights bill) and not all southern Democrats (not even all Deep South Democrats) were economic conservatives. Besides, if by some miracle Nixon could get eight southern delegations to vote for him, he would still only have half the delegations--not a majority! If there were a prolonged deadlock, Scoop Jackson as the VP chosen by the Senate would become acting president--what's the point of blocking JFK to get that?

(Yes, Nixon will have carried a majority of states. So what? Is Stewart Udall going to vote for Nixon because AZ did? Is Ross Bass of TN--who would later be the only southern rural congressman to vote for the civil rights act of 1964--going to vote against JFK because Nixon, very likely because of religion, carried the state? Conversely, Walter Judd of MN isn't going to vote for JFK just because Nixon lost MN...)

Besides, whoever won the presidential election, the Democrats would retain control of the House. Southerners would not want to put their seniority and committee chairmanships at the risk of an angry Democratic caucus. It's not so surprising that so few Democratic members of Congress supported Nixon--indeed, I am not aware of any who openly did so. (Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia maintained his usual "golden silence" enabling Nixon to carry the state as Ike had done in 1952 and 1956.)

Could there be a deal with Byrd to get a few Byrd electors to go for Nixon and thus have him win without going into the House? The obstacles to this are enormous. Most obviously, Nixon could make no open deal without alienating a lot of Nixon supporters, possibly including Nixon electors; and how would a secret deal be enforced? And Nixon's civil rights record (his support for strengthening the 1957 bill, his agreement with Rocky on the "treaty of Fifth Avenue," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty_of_Fifth_Avenue etc.) would have to give Byrd supporters pause. (If you think I am exaggerating the degree of GOP resentment of an open Nixon-Byrd deal, as conservative and Republican newspaper as the Chicago Tribune warned: 'Worse things can happen in this country than the presence of Sen. Kennedy in the White House. Much worse would be the presence in the White House of a man who would be under obligations to a band of political brigands intent upon depriving citizens of their rights." Quoted in Edmund F. Kallina, Jr., Courthouse over White House: Chicago and the Presidential Election of 1960, p. 132.)
 
Last edited:
I doubt that Kennedy/Jackson could win the election. Without LBJ, JFK is guaranteed to lose Texas. And a few other Southern states too, which will be more swayed by the unpledged elector movement. The probable results are either a Nixon victory or a deadlocked electoral college. The House is Democratic, but controlled by conservatives and Nixon has won more states - putting him in a better position to cut a deal with Byrd and become President in 1961.

Not necessarily. I just read this article recently, and it addresses this point exactly. You should read it too.
https://www.politico.com/magazine/s...-selection-matters-less-than-you-think-213805
 
Top