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Presidential Elections

Disputes, Anomalies, and Close-Calls

What were the circumstances surrounding the closeness of the 1960 election?

After a campaign in which the major issues of the national economy and the communist challenge were batted back and forth, in October 1960 pollster George Gallup predicted a close race, which he refused to forecast in exact numbers. In fact, Democrat John F. Kennedy ended up winning the presidency by a plurality of 119,450 votes—the closest popular-vote contest since the Harrison–Cleveland race of 1888. Although Republican Richard Nixon won more individual states than Kennedy, Kennedy eventually prevailed by winning key states with many electoral votes, such as Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas—despite the fact that former president Dwight D. Eisenhower lobbied on Nixon’s behalf in those closely contested states. The key state was Illinois, worth twenty-seven electoral votes, which Kennedy won amidst serious allegations of fraud in that state and Texas. Although the news media launched a series of investigative articles on voting fraud on the part of the Democrats, Nixon did not pursue a vote recount and quietly conceded the election. Like other notable losers of presidential elections before him, Nixon ran again. In 1968, he defeated Democratic contender Hubert Humphrey by a clear majority of electoral votes.



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