John F Kennedy elected President of the US (1960)

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Kennedy and Nixon TV debate 1960

Kennedy wins; Nixon Concedes

Kennedy wins; Nixon Concedes

Eisenhower sends congratulations

California puts senator over top; popular vote is closest since 1888

John Fitzgerald Kennedy in a suspense-laden photo-finish beat Richard M Nixon today to become the first Roman Catholic, the youngest man, and the first son of the Twentieth Century to be elected president of the United States.

The 43-year-old Democratic senator from Massachusetts clinched victory shortly after 9 am (EST) by capturing the crucial 32 electoral votes in Nixon’s home state of California. He took California by beating the vice president in his own home county of Los Angeles.

Kennedy had gone into the lead early Tuesday evening, but during the night and today’s small hours, uncertainty in California and a few other states had kept the final outcome in doubt.

With victory in California, Kennedy had won 21 states with 299 electoral votes, 30 more than the magic majority. He was leading in two states with 38 electoral votes which gave him an indicated total of 337.

Nixon had won 24 states with 185 electoral votes, and led in two with seven electoral votes for an indicated total of 192.

Nails down prize

At the moment California’s electoral total nailed down the big prize for Kennedy, the senator had polled 30,329,441 popular votes compared to 29,740,948 for Nixon. He had only 50.49 per cent of the two-party vote, the smallest percentage margin since 1888.

In the final hours before Kennedy’s victory became assured, the contest had narrowed to two big states, Illinois and California.

Ironically, it was Nixon’s native state that put Kennedy over the top with its large bundle of electoral votes.

Kennedy still led in the counting for Illinois’ 27 electoral votes but no longer had to have them to win.

It was a dramatic climax to a dramatic campaign and a dramatic political career. Both candidates had fought hard down to the wire, and President Eisenhower had intervened stoutly to help the man he picked in 1952 and 1956 to be his vice presidential running mate.

But the Eisenhower magic, heretofore infallible, didn’t work this time. Only in Ohio of the states where the President campaigned did Nixon win.

Both candidates and millions of Americans had gone to bed Tuesday night or early today not knowing who the voters had picked to lead the nation in its next four fateful years.

But the Kennedy tide was running. Nixon made a public but qualified concession before 3:30 am EST. He congratulated Kennedy for his campaign but held back for the time being on the loser’s traditional message to the victor.

Kennedy and Nixon TV debate 1960

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