There are countless factors that went into John F. Kennedy’s razor thin electoral victory over Richard M. Nixon for the presidency in 1960.
Close Race: It was a close race, with just over 100,000 votes nationally separating the two candidates. Kennedy won Illinois by just 8,858 votes and Texas by just 46,257. There were voting irregularities reported in both of these electorally rich states. Had Nixon carried these two states, he would have captured a majority of the Electoral College and with it the presidency, even though Kennedy may have still retained a narrow lead in the popular vote.
The Debate: In many ways, the race came down to style. The first ever presidential debate showed the charismatic Kennedy as relaxed and comfortable, while Nixon, who had refused any makeup under the bright television lights, displayed a dark five-o’clock shadow.
On the Beach: Voters often cast their ballots based on perceptions and likeability of the candidates. Perhaps nothing captures the differences between the suave east coast JFK and the awkward Nixon better than the following side-by-side pictures of their demeanor and attire while walking on the beach.
Other Reasons for Nixon’s Defeat: For an analysis of other reasons why Kennedy beat Nixon, including whether Eisenhower’s wife may have contributed to Nixon’s defeat, click here to read my blog from November 3, 2014.