1960 United States presidential election

The 1960 United States presidential election was the 44th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 8, 1960. In a closely contested election, Democratic United States Senator John F. Kennedy defeated incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon, the Republican Party nominee. This was the first election in which fifty states participated and the last in which the District of Columbia did not, marking the first participation of Alaska and Hawaii. This made it the only presidential election where the threshold for victory was 269 electoral votes. It was also the first election in which an incumbent president was ineligible to run for a third term because of the term limits established by the 22nd Amendment.

1960 United States presidential election

 1956 November 8, 1960 1964 

537 members of the Electoral College
269 electoral votes needed to win
Turnout62.8%[1] 2.2 pp
 
Nominee John F. Kennedy Richard Nixon
Party Democratic Republican
Home state Massachusetts California
Running mate Lyndon B. Johnson Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
Electoral vote 303 219
States carried 22 26
Popular vote 34,220,984[lower-alpha 1] 34,108,157
Percentage 49.7% 49.6%

Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Kennedy/Johnson, red denotes those won by Nixon/Lodge, orange denotes the electoral votes for Byrd/Thurmond by Alabama and Mississippi unpledged electors, and a vote for Byrd/Goldwater by an Oklahoma faithless elector. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

President before election

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Republican

Elected President

John F. Kennedy
Democratic

Nixon faced little opposition in the Republican race to succeed popular incumbent Dwight D. Eisenhower. Kennedy, a junior U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, established himself as the Democratic front-runner with his strong performance in the 1960 Democratic primaries, including a key victory in West Virginia over United States Senator Hubert Humphrey. He defeated Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson on the first presidential ballot of the 1960 Democratic National Convention, and asked Johnson to serve as his running mate. The issue of the Cold War dominated the election, as tensions were high between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Kennedy won a 303 to 219 Electoral College victory and is generally considered to have won the national popular vote by 112,827, a margin of 0.17 percent. Fourteen unpledged electors from Mississippi and Alabama cast their vote for Senator Harry F. Byrd, as did a faithless elector from Oklahoma. The 1960 presidential election was the closest election since 1916, and this closeness can be explained by a number of factors.[2] Kennedy benefited from the economic recession of 1957–58, which hurt the standing of the incumbent Republican Party, and he had the advantage of 17 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.[3] Furthermore, the new votes that Kennedy, the first Roman Catholic president, gained among Catholics almost neutralized the new votes Nixon gained among Protestants.[4] Nixon's advantages came from Eisenhower's popularity, as well as the economic prosperity of the past eight years. Kennedy's campaigning skills decisively outmatched Nixon's, who exhausted time and resources campaigning in all fifty states while Kennedy focused on campaigning in populous swing states. Kennedy emphasized his youth, while Nixon focused heavily on his experience. Kennedy relied on Johnson to hold the South, and used television effectively. Despite this, Kennedy's popular vote margin was the narrowest in the 20th century.