1960 Democratic Party presidential primaries

← 1956 March 8 to June 7, 1960 1964 →

1,521 delegates to the 1960 Democratic National Convention
761 (majority) votes needed to win
Candidate John F. Kennedy Hubert Humphrey
Home state Massachusetts Minnesota
Contests won 10 2
Popular vote 1,847,259 590,410
Percentage 31.4% 10.1%

     John F. Kennedy      Lyndon B. Johnson      Hubert H. Humphrey      Various[a]

Previous Democratic nominee

Adlai Stevenson

Democratic nominee

John F. Kennedy

From March 8 to June 7, 1960, voters and members of the Democratic Party elected delegates to the 1960 Democratic National Convention through a series of caucuses, conventions, and primaries, partly for the purpose of nominating a candidate for President of the United States in the 1960 election. The presidential primaries were inconclusive, as several of the leading contenders did not enter them, but U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts emerged as the strongest candidate and won the nomination over Lyndon B. Johnson at the convention, held from July 11 to 15 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Recalling the experience of 1928 Democratic nominee Al Smith (who was Catholic), many wondered if anti-Catholic prejudice would affect Kennedy's chances of winning the nomination and the election in November.[1] To prove his vote-getting ability, Kennedy challenged U.S. senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, a liberal, in the Wisconsin primary. Although Kennedy defeated Humphrey in Wisconsin, his reliance on heavily Catholic areas left many party bosses unconvinced. Kennedy thus faced Humphrey in the heavily Protestant state of West Virginia. Humphrey's campaign was low on money and could not compete with the well-organized, well-financed Kennedy team. Kennedy's siblings combed the state looking for votes, leading Humphrey to complain that he "felt like an independent merchant running against a chain store."[2] On primary day, Kennedy crushed Humphrey with over 60% of the vote, and Humphrey withdrew from the race.

Although Kennedy won the popular contests by comfortable margin, his main opponent, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, did not participate (except as a write-in candidate). Johnson had a very strong base in the party establishment and gained the support of many delegates chosen through caucus and convention selection processes.[3] In the months leading up to the Democratic Convention, Kennedy traveled around the nation persuading delegates from various states to support him. However, as the Convention opened, Kennedy was still a few dozen votes short of victory.[citation needed]

Several major candidates served as Democratic Party nominees, with John F. Kennedy serving as the nominee for 1960, Johnson in 1964, and Humphrey in 1968.


1952 and 1956 elections

After controlling the White House for five consecutive terms from 1933 through 1953, the Democratic Party had been defeated in two consecutive elections. Both times, popular World War II general Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson II.[4]

John F. Kennedy raised his national profile at the 1956 Democratic National Convention by giving the nominating speech for Adlai Stevenson II and finishing second in the contest for the vice-presidential nomination.

At the 1956 Democratic National Convention, Stevenson surprisingly left the choice of his vice-presidential running mate to the delegates.[5] Following his nomination in Chicago, Stevenson made a brief appearance before the convention. He told the delegates he had decided "to depart from the precedents of the past" and that "the selection of the Vice Presidential nominee should be made through the free processes of this convention."[6] With one day's notice, the candidates scrambled to assemble campaigns for delegate support. The leaders were Estes Kefauver, who had run two populist campaigns for the presidency but lost the nomination each time to Stevenson, and John F. Kennedy, a relatively unknown United States Senator from Massachusetts but a scion of the powerful Kennedy family. Kennedy surprised observers by surging into the lead on the second ballot and falling only 39 votes short of the nomination, but on the third ballot, several favorite son candidates threw their delegations' support to Kefauver, and he prevailed. Kennedy gave a gracious concession speech, raising his national profile within the party.[7]

1958 midterm elections

In the 1958 elections, the Republican Party suffered heavy losses due to a nationwide economic recession, the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, and the galvanized opposition of organized labor following the passage of strengthened labor restrictions. Kennedy was re-elected in a historic landslide; the gain of ten Senate seats also buttressed the political power of Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, who had won the regional support of some Southern delegations in 1956.[8]

"Democrats won seats in the Senate in California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming." Democrats conceded no seats they had obtained in previous years.[8]


The following political leaders were candidates for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination:


Candidate Most recent office Home state Campaign

Withdrawal date

Popular vote Contests won Running mate
John F. Kennedy United States Senator
from Massachusetts

Secured nomination: July 15, 1960
10 Lyndon B. Johnson

Other major candidates

These candidates participated in multiple state primaries or were included in multiple major national polls.

Candidate Most recent office Home state Campaign

Withdrawal date

Lyndon B. Johnson United States Senator
from Texas

Announced: July 1960
Hubert Humphrey United States Senator
from Minnesota
(1949–1964, 1971–1978)


Announced: December 30, 1959
Withdrew: May 10, 1960
Adlai Stevenson II Governor
of Illinois

Stuart Symington U.S. Senator
from Missouri

Robert B. Meyner[9] Governor
of New Jersey

New Jersey
Wayne Morse United States Senator
from Oregon

Favorite sons

Further information: Favorite son

The following candidates ran only in their home state's primary or caucus for the purpose of controlling its delegate slate at the convention and did not appear to be considered national candidates by the media.

Declined to run

The following persons were listed in two or more major national polls or were the subject of media speculation surrounding their potential candidacy, but declined to actively seek the nomination.


National polling

Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on MediaWiki.org.
Poll source Publication
Pat Brown
Hubert Humphrey
Estes Kefauver
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
Adlai Stevenson
Stuart Symington
Gallup[10] Aug. 11, 1957 5% 29% 23% 8% 5% 14%[b] 16%
Gallup[11] Nov. 16, 1957 3% 26% 19% 11% 5% 15%[c] 21%
Gallup[12] June 11, 1958 3% 16% 19% 12% 23% 4% 8%[d] 15%
Gallup[13] Nov. 30, 1958 1% 11% 23% 6% 29% 5% 11%[e] 14%
Gallup[14] Jan. 25, 1959 4% 10% 25% 7% 29% 4% 12%[f] 9%
Gallup[15] April 5, 1959 12% 28% 9% 27% 5% 11%[g] 9%
Gallup[16] May 18, 1959 5% 10% 25% 13% 26% 7% 6%[h] 8%
Gallup[17] June 10, 1959 6% 26% 12% 29% 4% 6%[i] 8%
Gallup[18] July 9, 1959 4% 11% 29% 14% 25% 6% 4%[j] 7%
Gallup[19] Aug. 14, 1959 2% 5% 9% 26% 12% 26% 7% 6%[k] 7%
Gallup[20] Sep. 27, 1959 1% 5% 9% 30% 10% 26% 6% 8% 5%
Gallup[21] Nov. 18, 1959 3% 4% 10% 27% 11% 26% 6% 5%[l] 8%
Gallup[22] Dec. 18, 1959 3% 4% 10% 24% 14% 26% 5% 4%[m] 10%
Gallup[23] Jan. 29, 1960 2% 5% 6% 32% 12% 28% 6% 3%[n] 6%
Gallup[24] Feb. 26, 1960 6% 6% 35% 13% 23% 5% 5%[o] 7%
Gallup[25] March 27, 1960 3% 5% 34% 15% 23% 6% 6% 8%
Gallup[26] April 20, 1960 3% 7% 39% 11% 21% 6% 5% 8%
Gallup[27] May 27, 1960 7% 41% 11% 21% 7% 9% 4%
  1. ^ Favorite sons received the support of Missouri (Stuart Symington), Florida (George Smathers), New Jersey (Robert Meyner), Mississippi (Ross Barnett), and Hawaii. (Adlai E. Stevenson II)
  2. ^ Frank Clement with 6%, G. Mennen Williams with 4%, Edmund Muskie with 2%, Robert Meyner and Robert Kerr combined for 2%
  3. ^ Frank Clement with 6%, Robert Meyner with 3%, and 6% combined for Happy Chandler, G. Mennen Williams, and Robert Kerr
  4. ^ Frank Clement with 4%, Robert Meyner and G. Mennen Williams combined for 4%
  5. ^ G. Mennen Williams with 5%, Orval Faubus with 4%, and Robert Meyner with <2%
  6. ^ G. Mennen Williams with 5%, Orval Faubus with 5%, and Robert Meyner with 2%
  7. ^ Combined for Orval Faubus, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Meyner, and G. Mennen Williams
  8. ^ Combined for G. Mennen Williams, Orval Faubus, and Robert Meyner
  9. ^ Combined for Robert Meyner and G. Mennen Williams
  10. ^ Combined for Robert Meyner and G. Mennen Williams
  11. ^ Robert Meyner with 3%, G. Mennen Williams with 3%
  12. ^ G. Mennen Williams with 3% and Robert Meyner with 2%
  13. ^ Robert Meyner with 2% and G. Mennen Williams with 2%
  14. ^ G. Mennen Williams with 2% and Robert Meyner with 1%
  15. ^ Robert Meyner with 2%; Pat Brown, G. Mennen Williams, Wayne Morse, and Chester Bowles combined for 3%

Two-way races

Kennedy v. Kefauver

Poll source Date(s)
Estes Kefauver
John F. Kennedy
Gallup[28] Feb. 7, 1958 35% 56% 9%

Kennedy v. Johnson

Poll source Date(s)
Lyndon Johnson
John F. Kennedy
Gallup[29] Feb. 28, 1960 32% 58% 10%

Kennedy v. Stevenson

Poll source Date(s)
John F. Kennedy
Adlai Stevenson
Gallup[30] Dec. 3, 1958 42% 42% 16%
Gallup[31] Feb. 6, 1959 44% 45% 1%
Gallup[32] June 12, 1959 45% 44% 11%
Gallup[29] Feb. 28, 1960 50% 43% 7%
Look magazine[33] June 21, 1960 59% 20% 21%

Johnson v. Symington

Poll source Date(s)
Lyndon Johnson
Stuart Symington
Gallup[29] February 28, 1960 47% 28% 25%

Statewide polling

West Virginia

Poll source Date(s) Sample
Hubert Humphrey
John F. Kennedy
The Fayette Tribune[34] May 6, 1960 181 A in Fayette County 24% 38% 39%


Poll source Date(s) Sample
Hubert Humphrey
John F. Kennedy
Lyndon Johnson
Adlai Stevenson
Stuart Symington
Sen. William Proxmire[35] Aug 5, 1959 1,311 A 17% 43% 4% 29% 7%

Schedule and results

States by winner

Date Contest Pledged delegates John F. Kennedy Lyndon Johnson Pat Brown Hubert Humphrey George Smathers Michael DiSalle George H. McLain Unpledged Others
March 8 New Hampshire primary 11 11


April 5 Wisconsin primary 31 23




April 12 Illinois preference primary 0 34,332 4,283 14,552
Illinois delegate primary 69 [data missing]
April 19 New Jersey primary 0 217,608
April 26 Massachusetts primary 41 41


794 6,762
Pennsylvania primary 83 183,073 13,860 59,880
May 3 Indiana primary 34 353,832 82,937
Ohio primary 64 315,312
Washington D.C. primary 9 8,239 6,127
May 8 Texas caucuses[36] 61 61
May 10 Nebraska primary 16 80,408 3,202 7,082
West Virginia primary 25 236,510 152,187
May 17 Maryland primary 24 201,769 24,350 49,420
May 20 Oregon primary 17 146,663 16,319
May 24 Florida primary 29 322,235
June 7 California primary 81 1,354,031 646,387
South Dakota primary 11 24,773
TOTALS 1,847,259 1,354,031 590,410 322,235 315,312 646,387 241,958 369,072

Primary race

From the outset of the campaign, Kennedy's religion played a major role. Happy Chandler, the governor of Kentucky and a major power broker in the party, emphatically stated that Kennedy could not win Kentucky due to his Catholicism.[37]

New Hampshire: March 8

See also: 1960 New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary

Kennedy faced trivial opposition in the neighboring state of New Hampshire and won overwhelmingly.[38] While campaigning in Madison, Wisconsin, Kennedy expressed enthusiasm about the New Hampshire results: "I'm very happy about it; we did better than I thought we would."[39]

Wisconsin: April 5

The first sharply contested popular primary was in Wisconsin, where Kennedy faced Humphrey on April 5.

Kennedy had begun building campaign operations in the state as early as June 1959, when he hired Jerry Bruno, the organizer behind William Proxmire's election to the Senate, and laid the groundwork for a campaign headquarters in Milwaukee.[40] Kennedy formally announced his intention to run in Wisconsin on January 21, intending to show popular support for his campaign.[41] The wealthy Kennedy was far better funded than Humphrey, a man of relatively modest means.[42] Kennedy was also supported by his wealthy and glamorous extended family and friends; in his memoirs, Humphrey later lamented that "Muriel and I and our 'plain folks' entourage were no match for the glamour of Jackie Kennedy and the other Kennedy women, for Peter Lawford ... and Frank Sinatra singing their commercial 'High Hopes'. Jack Kennedy brought family and Hollywood to Wisconsin. The people loved it and the press ate it up."[43] Humphrey nevertheless believed that by beating Kennedy in Wisconsin, he could blunt the latter's momentum and overtake him in later primaries.

In Wisconsin, Kennedy won with the support of Catholic voters, including some Republican Catholics who voted in the Democratic primary.[44][45] Days before the primary, Kennedy said it had been the "toughest, closest, most meaningful".[46] However, some observers found his margin of victory unexpectedly narrow and attributed it solely to Catholic support, while Protestants had backed Humphrey, leaving questions about Kennedy's ability to carry the convention or the election in the fall.[47] Humphrey remained in the race, setting up a second popular showdown in the more heavily Protestant state of West Virginia.

The Wisconsin race was covered in the documentary film Primary.

West Virginia: May 10

In West Virginia, Kennedy sought to show that he could win the support of Protestant voters and to remove Humphrey from the race, securing the party's liberal wing and setting up a showdown with Johnson for the nomination. Humphrey had high expectations, given that the state's population was rural, working class, ninety-five percent Protestant, and its delegates had backed him against Kennedy in the vice presidential contest four years prior.[48]

Kennedy met the religious issue head-on, hoping to redefine the race as one of "tolerance against intolerance," rather than Catholic against Protestant. He also brought Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. to campaign in the state; Roosevelt then raised the issue of Humphrey's failure to serve in World War II. Though Humphrey had tried and failed to serve due to physical disability,[49] Roosevelt attacked his lack of service record, publicly telling audiences, "I don't know where [Humphrey] was in World War Two," and distributing flyers that accused him of draft dodging. After the primary was over, Roosevelt apologized to Humphrey and retracted the claims,[48] which he later called his greatest political regret.[50]

Kennedy continued to outspend Humphrey heavily in West Virginia; though he publicly claimed expenditures of $100,000, later estimates placed his family's overall spending at $1.5 million, dwarfing Humphrey's $23,000.[51] Humphrey traveled the state in a rented bus, while the Kennedys used a family-owned airplane.[52] Humphrey later wrote of the West Virginia campaign, "as a professional politician I was able to accept and indeed respect the efficacy of the Kennedy campaign. But underneath the beautiful exterior, there was an element of ruthlessness and toughness that I had trouble either accepting or forgetting."[53]

On May 4, 1960, Humphrey and Kennedy took part in a televised one-on-one debate at WCHS-TV in Charleston, West Virginia, ahead of the state's primary.[54]

Kennedy defeated Humphrey soundly in West Virginia, and Humphrey announced his withdrawal from the race that night.


Presidential nomination

Main article: 1960 Democratic National Convention

Presidential tally:[55]

Vice-presidential nomination

Further information: 1960 Democratic Party vice presidential candidate selection

Kennedy announced Lyndon B. Johnson as his choice of running-mate on the afternoon following his nomination.[56] Johnson was nominated by acclamation that evening.[57]

See also


  1. ^ a b Key:
    A – all adults
    RV – registered voters
    LV – likely voters
    V – unclear


  1. ^ "John Kennedy As U.S. Presidential Hopeful". The Canberra Times. Associated Press. January 2, 1960. p. 2. Retrieved March 25, 2021.
  2. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur M. (2002) [1978]. Robert Kennedy and His Times. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 195. ISBN 0-618-21928-5.
  3. ^ Our Campaigns - US President - D Primaries Race - Feb 01, 1960
  4. ^ "CQ Almanac Online Edition". library.cqpress.com. Retrieved 2023-08-02.
  5. ^ "Stevenson 1956 Presidential Acceptance Speech | C-SPAN.org". www.c-span.org. Retrieved 2023-08-02.
  6. ^ "CQ Almanac Online Edition". library.cqpress.com. Retrieved 2023-08-02.
  7. ^ JOHN F. KENNEDY DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION 1956, retrieved 2023-08-02
  8. ^ a b "CQ Almanac Online Edition". library.cqpress.com. Retrieved 2023-08-02.
  9. ^ Oliphant, Thomas; Wilkie, Curtis (2017). The road to Camelot: Inside JFK's Five-Year Campaign. Simon & Schuster.
  10. ^ Gallup, George (11 Aug 1957). "Kefauver, Kennedy Tops in Party". The Washington Post. p. E5.
  11. ^ Gallup, George (17 Nov 1957). "GALLUP POLL SHOWS: Kefauver Democratic Choice for 1960, Sen. Kennedy Second". Los Angeles Times. p. 21.
  12. ^ Gallup, George (11 June 1958). "Stevenson Top Choice of Democratic Voters". Los Angeles Times. p. 15.
  13. ^ Gallup, George (30 Nov 1958). "Stevenson Tops Poll of Democrats: Kennedy Leads in Gallup Survey of Independent Voters". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Gallup, George (25 Jan 1959). "STEVENSON LEAD IN POLL LOWERED: Kennedy Closes Gap Over November Gallup Rating; Still lndependents'-Choice". Los Angeles Times. p. A.
  15. ^ Gallup, George (5 Apr 1959). "Kennedy, Stevenson Tie for Democratic Favor: Massachusetts Senator Gains Slightly, Gallup Poll Sampling Reveals". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ Gallup, George (18 May 1959). "Stevenson, Kennedy Run Close: Gallup Poll Shows Johnson Third With Democrats". Los Angeles Times. p. 6.
  17. ^ Gallup, George (10 June 1959). "Top Places Maintained by Stevenson, Kennedy". The Hartford Courant. p. 16.
  18. ^ Gallup, George (9 July 1959). "Kennedy Moves Out Ahead of Adlai In Democrats' Rating for Nomination". The Washington Post. p. A21.
  19. ^ Gallup, George (14 Aug 1959). "Kennedy and Stevenson Still Pace the Democrats". The Washington Post. p. D4.
  20. ^ Gallup, George (27 Sep 1959). "Party Rates Kennedy No. 1". The Boston Globe. p. A3.
  21. ^ Gallup, George (18 Nov 1959). "Stevenson Pulls Closer to Kennedy in Poll". The Hartford Courant. p. 16.
  22. ^ Gallup, George (18 Dec 1959). "Kennedy Loses Ground Slightly, Johnson Gains". The Washington Post. p. A21.
  23. ^ Gallup, George (29 Jan 1960). "Kennedy Scores Gain in Democrat Backing". Los Angeles Times. p. 6.
  24. ^ Gallup, George (26 Feb 1960). "Kennedy Lead Gains as Democratic Choice". Los Angeles Times. p. 21.
  25. ^ Gallup, George (27 Mar 1960). "Kennedy Keeps Lead in Democratic Vote". Los Angeles Times. p. A.
  26. ^ Gallup, George (20 Apr 1960). "Kennedy Widens Lead in New Gallup Poll". Los Angeles Times. p. 24.
  27. ^ Gallup, George (27 May 1960). "Kennedy In Same Spot As Previous Candidates". The Hartford Daily Courant. p. 17.
  28. ^ Gallup, George (7 Feb 1958). "Kennedy Widens Lead Over Kefauver in Poll". Los Angeles Times. p. 24.
  29. ^ a b c Gallup, George (28 Feb 1960). "Kennedy Favored by Democrats". Los Angeles Times. p. B14.
  30. ^ Gallup, George (3 Dec 1958). "Kennedy, Stevenson Tied As '60 'Show-Down' Choice". The Hartford Courant.
  31. ^ Gallup, George (6 Feb 1959). "GALLUP POLL REPORTS:: Stevenson in Slight Gain on Sen. Kennedy". Los Angeles Times.
  32. ^ Gallup, George (12 June 1959). "Stevenson, Kennedy in Close Race". Los Angeles Times. p. 17.
  33. ^ "Poll Finds Nixon, Kennedy Favored". The Washington Post. 21 June 1960.
  34. ^ Lawrence, W.H. (6 May 1960). "West Virginia Poll Finds Kennedy Gain". The New York Times. p. 1.
  35. ^ "Kennedy, Nixon in Poll Lead". The Austin Statesman. 5 Aug 1959. p. 3.
  36. ^ "JOHNSON SWEEPS TEXAS CAUCUSES; Senator Assured of Control of State's Delegation to Democratic Convention". The New York Times. 1960-05-09. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-04-24.
  37. ^ "Kennedy Can't Take Kentucky, Chandler Says". The Boston Globe. January 13, 1960. p. 16. Archived from the original on March 5, 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  38. ^ O'Brien, Michael (2006). John F. Kennedy: A Biography. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 444. ISBN 978-0-312-35745-0.
  39. ^ Fulton, William (March 10, 1960). "Many Factors Aid Kennedy's N.H. Triumph". Chicago Tribune.
  40. ^ Savage, Sean J. (2004). JFK, LBJ, and the Democratic Party. State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-6169-3.
  41. ^ Pietrusza, David (2008). 1960: LBJ Vs. JFK Vs. Nixon: the Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies. Union Square Press. ISBN 978-1-4027-6114-0.
  42. ^ "JFK and the Public View". shanti.virginia.edu.
  43. ^ Humphrey, Hubert H. (1976). Education of a Public Man: My Life and Politics. Doubleday & Company. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-8166-1897-2.
  44. ^ Lawrence W.H.; 'Wisconsin Buoys Kennedy's Drive but Poses Perils: Senator's Feat in Outpolling Humphrey and Nixon Aids His Presidential Fight'; Special to The New York Times , April 7, 1960, p. 1
  45. ^ Janson, Donald; 'Religion Big Factor In Kennedy Victory', Special to The New York Times, April 6, 1960, p. 1
  46. ^ "Press Wisconsin Campaign; Sen. Kennedy, Humphrey In Final Drive". Chicago Tribune. April 3, 1960.
  47. ^ Solberg, Carl (1984). Hubert Humphrey: A Biography. Borealis Books. p. 208. ISBN 0-87351-473-4.
  48. ^ a b Solberg 1984, p. 209.
  49. ^ Dallek, Robert (1998). Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961–1973. Oxford University Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-19-505465-1.
  50. ^ Schlesinger, Arthur M. Jr. (1996). Robert Kennedy and His Times. New York: Ballantine Books. p. 201.
  51. ^ Solberg 1984, pp. 210–11.
  52. ^ Bryan Ward Jr. (26 Apr 2013). "Battleground West Virginia Electing the President in 1960". wvculture.org. Archived from the original on 12 Nov 2012. Retrieved 21 Apr 2023.
  53. ^ Humphrey 1976, p. 208.
  54. ^ Berquist, Goodwin F. Jr. (1 September 1960). "The Kennedy-Humphrey debate". Today's Speech. 8 (3): 2–31. doi:10.1080/01463376009385139. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  55. ^ Our Campaigns - US President - D Convention Race - Jul 11, 1960
  56. ^ White, Theodore (1961). The Making of the President 1960. Giant Cardinal. p. 212.
  57. ^ Lawrence, W. H. (July 15, 1960). "Johnson is Nominated for Vice President; Kennedy Picks Him to Placate the South". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 September 2016.