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Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 14:09 GMT
Flashback 1960: Kennedy beats Nixon

Kennedy beat Nixon by just 118,574 votes
By BBC News Online's Kate Milner

The White House race between Al Gore and George Bush, apparently resting on a few hundred votes, is a reminder of the bitter presidential battle of 1960.

Richard Nixon, makes a speech as vice president (1960)
Richard Nixon felt it was a stolen election
John F Kennedy beat Vice-President Richard Nixon by just 0.2% of the popular vote - or 118,574 votes.

The result was so close it remained uncertain the day after polling. But Kennedy went on to win the electoral college by 84 votes - 302 to Nixon's 219.

Nixon admitted defeat - but he always believed he had been robbed of victory.

Supporters' anger

The Republican conditionally conceded to John Kennedy shortly after midnight on 9 November.

Voting figures
Kennedy: 49.7% (34,226,731)
Nixon: 49.5% (34,108,157)
In a Los Angeles hotel, the vice-president thanked his supporters for their help and said: "If the present trend continues, Senator Kennedy will be the next president of the US."

The announcement was greeted by cries of dissent from the crowd, and chants of, "We want Nixon, We want Nixon."

Kennedy refused to accept the speech as a concession of defeat, and Nixon later sent a telegram congratulating his rival.

By 0600 the race had tightened even more. But Nixon said a recount could have taken six months and branded him a "sore loser" forever.

John F Kennedy
Kennedy did well in the presidential debates
It had been a bitter contest. According to most opinion polls Kennedy and Nixon were neck-and-neck at the end of the party convention season. One poll, by Gallup, put them at 47% each.

After the four presidential debates in September and October, Kennedy took a slight lead.

But in the final days of the campaign, Nixon - with help from President Dwight D Eisenhower who was campaigning for him - narrowed the gap.


The campaign became an increasingly dirty one, with mud-slinging and accusations of dirty tricks on both sides.

The Kennedy camp uncovered a story that Nixon had regularly attended parties with prostitutes at the Florida home of his friend Bebe Rebozo. They were about to release the story to the media when they found out that Kennedy had also been a party guest.

The Nixon campaign was also digging for dirt.

Thanks to connections with the FBI director J Edgar Hoover, they got hold of several files on Kennedy's sex life. Though it was not released at the time, they got hold of a rumour that Kennedy had had a secret first marriage. It would have highly damaging to Kennedy, a Catholic.

The Republicans were sure that the Kennedy campaign was bugging their telephones, and the Democrats were equally suspicious of the Nixon team.

In the last week of the campaign Kennedy told his speech writer Richard Goodwin that Nixon was a "filthy, lying son of a bitch, and a very dangerous man."

Underworld links

The most controversial aspect of the campaign continues to puzzle investigators - the role of organised crime.

At the time, Chicago mafia boss Sam Giancana, who shared a mistress with Kennedy, bragged that Kennedy "wouldn't even be in the White House" without the use of intimidation at the polls in Illinois.

Chicago mayor Richard Daley - the father of Al Gore's campaign manager, William Daley - famously told Kennedy late on election day: "With a little bit of luck, and the help of a few close friends, you're going to carry Illinois."

The turnout in Chicago was a staggering 89% - compared to the national figure of 62.8%.

And despite losing 93 of Illinois's 102 counties, Kennedy was eventually declared the winner by 8,858 votes.

As well as in Illinois, dirty tricks were alleged in several states including Missouri, Texas, New Jersey and West Viginia.

Nixon made it to the White House eight years later. But that race was also fairly close - he beat the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, by 0.7% of the popular vote.

The electoral college vote, however, was decisive. Nixon won 301 votes to Humphrey's 191.

John F Kennedy
real 14k
How to be President:
Radio 4 looks at the Kennedy v Nixon race


Bush presidency:


Texts and transcripts:



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