On November 8, 1960, John F. Kennedy, a Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts, was elected America's 35th president, defeating Republican opponent Richard M. Nixon. Test your knowledge of the youngest man ever to be elected president of the United States with these trivia questions...
How Close Was the Election? Kennedy won the presidency by a very narrow margin, outpolling Nixon by only 112,827 votes, the closest presidential election since 1916 when Democrat Woodrow Wilson won 49.2 percent of the popular vote, compared with 46.1 percent for his Republican opponent, Charles E. Hughes. Kennedy's victory over Nixon in the popular vote was even narrower, 49.7 percent to Nixon's 49.5 percent. In the electoral vote, the margin was considerably greater. Kennedy won the popular vote in 22 states, including several of the country's most populous, earning him 303 electoral votes. Nixon was victorious in 26 states, but several of these were less populous and thus earned him fewer electoral votes for a total of 219.
What Set Kennedy Apart from Previous Presidents? Only 43 when he took the oath of office, Kennedy became the youngest man ever to be elected president. However, he was not the youngest man to ever serve as president, a distinction that went to Teddy Roosevelt who at age 42 took over as president after the assassination of President William McKinley in September 1901. Kennedy was also the first Roman Catholic to hold America's highest office. More than 30 years earlier, Al Smith, also a Roman Catholic, was the Democratic Party's unsuccessful candidate for president in the election of 1928.
How Did Kennedy Fare in His Debates Against Nixon?
Still a relatively new medium in 1960, television played a significant role in the presidential contest between Kennedy and Nixon. On September 26, 1960, the two candidates squared off for the first televised presidential debate in American history. An estimated 70 million TV viewers watched the debate, and millions of others listened to the debate on the radio.
Nixon, still recovering from a bout with the flu and looking somewhat pale, seemed to most Americans to be less presidential in appearance than Kennedy. While most of those who viewed the debate on television came away from the event convinced that Kennedy had won the face-off, those who listened to the debate on radio believed that Nixon had bested his opponent. Although most Americans felt the men were evenly matched in the following three debates, the edge Kennedy gained in the first debate helped him to move ahead of Nixon in the final analysis.
Who Were the Candidates' Running Mates? Kennedy, strongly associated with the more liberal northern states, wisely decided to select U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas as his running mate. Popular with his fellow southern Democrats, Johnson was then serving as Senate majority leader. Nixon, who served as vice president during the two-term presidential administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, picked former U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. of Massachusetts. Lodge, who had also served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, was well versed on foreign policy, making him a perfect fit for Nixon's campaign strategy, which was pinned largely on foreign policy issues rather than domestic policy.