The Nomination of Hubert Humphrey for Vice-President

Southern Political Science Association

The Nomination of Hubert Humphrey for Vice-President
Author(s): Gerald Pomper
Source: The Journal of Politics, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Aug., 1966), pp. 639-659
Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Southern Political Science Association Stable URL: .

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GERALD POMPER Rutgers University

T HE NOMINATION of Hubert Humphrey as the 1964 Democratic candidate for Vice-President constituted one of the most un- usual incidents in recent political history. It was achieved through

an active campaign, but one of limited public involvement. Humph- rey’s designation was achieved ostensibly through the deliberate choice of one individual, Lyndon Johnson, but only after an exten-

sive effort to direct his choice to the Minnesota Senator. All of the participants in the decision were greatly influenced by the presence of Robert Kennedy, who was not even a candidate by the time of the Atlantic City convention.

Moreover, the Vice-Presidentialnominating contest was remark- able in that it existed at all. The office involved is one which has been the object of ridicule for almost all of Americanhistory. The common evaluation of the “second counsel” was most bitingly ex- pressed by the famous Mr. Dooley:

Th’ prisidincyis th’ highestofficein th’ gift iv th’ people.Th’ vice- prisidincyis th’ next highest and th’ lowest. It isn’t a crime exactly. Ye can’t be sint to jail f’r it, but it’s a kind iv a disgrace.It’s like writin’ anonymous letters. At a convintion nearly all th’ dillygates lave as soon as they’ve nommynatedth’ prisidintf’r fear wan iv thim will be nommynated f’r vice-prisidint. . If ye say about a man that he’s good prisidintialtimberhe’ll buy ye a dhrink. If ye say he’s good vice-prisidintialtimber ye mane that he isn’t good enough to be cut up into shingles,an’ y’d bettherbe careful.L

More recently, the office has been paid greater respect. In- creasing governmental responsibilities have been placed upon the Vice-President, particularly since the passage of the National Se-

*Researchfor this articlewas conductedwhile I servedwith SenatorHumph- rey’s staff in Atlantic City under a National ConventionFaculty Fellowship.I would like to thank the Eagleton Institute of Politics, the National Centerfor Educationin Politics,and staff aides of Mr. Humphreyfor their help.

‘Finley Peter Dunne, The World of Mr. Dookey,ed. by Louis Filler (New York: CollierBooks, 1962), pp. 50-51.


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curity Act.2 The political importance of the office has increased as well, as demonstrated most strikingly by Richard Nixon’s suc- cessful bid for his party’s Presidential designation in 1960. Above all, the assassination of John Kennedy has made politicians and voters aware of the significance of the Vice-Presidency.

The Outlook in 1964

Until November 22, 1963, no serious controversy existed in regard to the future national leadership of the Democratic party. Renomination of the successful 1960 ticket was certain. Senator Humphrey, for his part, seemed to have reached the culmination of his career. After unsuccessful attempts to win a national nomi- nation in the past, he had become Senate party whip, and might expect eventually to be majority leader. The road to the White House, however, appeared blocked. John Kennedy, if re-elected, would be President until 1969. The principal alternative inheritors

of his leadership appeared to be Attorney-GeneralRobert Kennedy or Vice-President Lyndon Johnson. Certainly Humphrey had little reason to expect to be the center of activity in Atlantic City. Free of other commitments, he agreed to do a twice-daily commentary for the American Broadcasting Company during the convention.

The Dallas assassination necessarily brought great political changes. Johnson’s accession to the Presidency carried with it the leadership of the party. His nomination for a full term was rapidly assured, but the question of a Vice-Presidential candidate was thrown completely open. The most obvious possibility was the Attorney-General. It is doubtful if Johnson ever wanted Robert Kennedy on the ticket with him. There were many differencesof temperament and policy between them. A proud man, the new President naturally wanted to win the forthcomingelection without debt to the name of his martyred predecessor. Moreover, the two men had been rivals in the past, and Johnson had suffered defeat in 1960 after a campaign directed by Robert Kennedy.3

Despite his own feelings, however, Johnson had to take account

‘See Irving G. Williams, The Rise of the Vice-Presidency(Washington: Public AffairsPress, 1956), pp. 231-258.

‘ThebestaccountoftheVice-Presidentianlominationatthe1960conven- tion is in ArthurM. Schlesinger,Jr., A ThousandDays (Boston: Hbughton Mifflin,1965), pp. 39-58. StrainsbetweenJohnsonand Robert Kennedyprob- ably beganat this time.

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of the great political strength of the Attorney-General.After the assassination, Robert Kennedy became the object of deep emotional support. In the three years that his brother had been President, moreover, the national party machinery had become dominated by those close to their family. Indeed, a movement to place the Attorney-Generalon the ticket began in earnest early in 1964. In the New Hampshire primary, through write-in votes, 25,000 Demo- crats indicated their preference for him as the Vice-Presidential candidate.

Johnson played a waiting game, expecting the emotional re- action to the assassination to subside, while he preserved his free- dom of choice. To maintain that freedom, he began to create an extensive public list of possible running-mates. Inclusion of Sargent Shriver served to decrease the concentration on Robert Kennedy as the political heir of the late President. Addition of other names served to prevent a concentration of support or opposition on any other single possibility.4

Hubert Humphrey had been mentioned as a possible candidate from the first. He had the advantages of a widespreadand generally favorable public reputation, accumulated governmental experience and demonstrated ability in a wide range of subject areas. His political strength was equally important. The Minnesota Senator

was an active participant at the four previous Democratic conven- tions. He led the successful fight for a stronger civil rights plank in the 1948 convention, and was a favorite son candidate in 1952. Four years later, he actively sought the Vice-Presidentialnomina- tion and in 1960 he fought John Kennedy in the presidential primaries. Through such experiences,he developed a wide acquaint- anceship in the party, which he strengthened by a heavy schedule of attendance and speeches at the great variety of American politi- cal functions.

Humphrey’s political assets were well suited to the campaign he was about to enter. He had the broad party support and per- sonal friendships-including that with Johnson-that were to prove vital in 1964. In previous national campaigns, he failed because he lacked the resources necessary to win mass support-money, or

‘ForanaccountoftheVice-Presidentianlominationin1964,asseenfrom the perspectiveof Lyndon Johnson, see “The Choice of Humphrey,Step by Step,”TheNew YorkTimes,August28, 1964,p. 1.

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“charisma,” or professional advice.5 In this campaign, these deficiencies,where they still existed, were of less importance.

The Senator was also able to make good use of the unique position held by President Johnson. By the time the Democratic convention met, the delegates had accepted, almost as self-evident truth, the proposition that “the Presidential candidate selects his own running mate.” An unbounded prerogative was assumed to exist. Historically, this was certainly not the case. Open contests for the Vice-Presidential nomination have been frequent, and in- ternal party conflict over the choice has been common. Perhaps the only Presidential candidate who actually dictated the selection of a running-matewas Franklin Roosevelt in 1940.6 His preference for Henry Wallace aroused such antipathy-within the party, how- ever, that it was not a happy precedent for Johnson.

The freedom granted the President was historically unique. In part, it can be explained by the fact that he was still enjoying the “honeymoon” accorded a new President-a “honeymoon,” more- over, occurring immediately before the expected consummation of the November election. The Kennedy assassination, too, had left its mark. Democrats remembered,in keynoter John Pastore’s words, “that day four years ago in Los Angeles when John F. Kennedy said, ‘I need you, Lyndon Johnson.’ 117 They believed that the choice had been made by Kennedy alone and, as proven by the transfer of power after the assassination, that it had proven a wise choice. It therefore followed, in party logic, that the best choice would always be made by the Presidential candidate acting independently.

The President’s freedom, however, while greater than in most conventions, was not unlimited. Other elements of the party at least retained the prerogatives Bagehot had accorded to the British Crown: the rights to be consulted, to encourage,and to warn. John- son might have succeeded in forcing the convention to ratify even some outrageous choice, but it would have been very costly in political support, a cost he was not likely to assume.

For Humphrey, the limits on the President served to increase

‘Humphrey’sdifficultiesare chronicledby TheodoreH. White, The Making of the President 1960 (New York: Atheneum, 1961), pp. 29-36, 109-114.

‘See James M. Burns,Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox (New York: Har- court Brace, 1956), pp. 428-430.

7TheNew YorkTimes,August25, 1964,p. 22.

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his own chances for the Vice-Presidentialnomination. These limits brought Johnson’s attention to focus on prominent political figures., such as the Minnesota Senator, and decreased his consideration of obscure “dark horses.” At the same time, Humphrey had the favor of the President. Coming to the Senate in the same year, 1948,

the two had always been friendly. They shared the intense experi- ence of defeat by John Kennedy in 1960. After the assassination, the Minnesotan became virtual leader of the Senate Democratic party. Humphrey was particularly prominent during the three- month filibuster on civil rights legislation, which occupied the Senate during the very time the Vice-Presidential campaign was conducted.

Unlike Robert Kennedy, then, Humphrey did not have to pressure the President into making a choice he personally opposed. Instead, his task was to persuade Johnson to make a selection he found satisfactory, at least, or actually favored personally. The strategy decided upon, more by his staff than the Senator himself, was that of “the next best man.” All efforts were directed toward convincing significant persons and groups that the running-mate should be selected strictly on grounds of ability, rather than narrow electoral appeal. A short document was distributed, usually without comment, to the press, prominent individuals, party personnel and others who might be able to influence the “attentive public” or the President himself. The theme of the document was simple:

The suddendeath of PresidentKennedy,the subsequentsuccessionof PresidentJohnson,the presentvacancyin the officeof the Vice-Pres- idency, have all underlinedthe necessityfor the Vice-Presidentto be the man next-best-qualifiedfor the Presidencyitself. . . . [Other] factors-in the nuclear age-are overshadowedby the necessity of guaranteeingthat, should tragedy befall the President, the nation would be under the most experiencedand capableleadershipavail- able.8

A small staff of the Senator’s close friends and assistants was as- sembled to spread this message. Fewer than two dozen persons were continuously involved in the campaign.

Pre-Convention Campaigning
The actual conduct of the campaign cannot be portrayed as

‘This quotation,and all other materialnot specificallydocumented,is from papersby or interviewswith supportersor membersof the staff of Senator Humphrey. I have withheldspecifictitles or namesbecausepledgesof anonym- ity were made at the time of research.

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following a logical and pre-established plan. Like most political efforts, it was marked by considerable innovation, intuition and improvisation. Chronology does not help greatly to order events, either, for several efforts were being conducted simultaneously. The organized campaign for Humphrey began in January, 1964. Com- menting on a poll of Democratic county chairmen which showed him the leading candidate, the Minnesota Senator carefully showed his interest and deference: “It is, of course, an honor to be associ- ated with President Johnson,” he replied, “and it would be a singular honor to be with him on the Democratic ticket. . . . The decision for Vice-President, however, will be made by the Demo- cratic convention, which I am confident will respect the wishes in this matter of President Johnson.”9

In the weeks following, there was only one date of crucial importance. This was July 30, the day on which President Johnson formally excluded Robert Kennedy from consideration for the Vice- Presidency. Without further explanation, the President told the press he had decided against any “member of the Cabinet or those who meet regularly with the Cabinet.”10 This criterion also ruled out of consideration Secretaries Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara and Orville Freeman, as well as Sargent Shriver and Adlai Stevenson. Until this time, Humphrey was only one of several possible candi- dates. After July 30, his backers shifted their emphasis toward building a consensus on behalf of the Senator.

The pre-conventioncampaigncan be best analyzed by observing the efforts made to win support from three important elements: the major constituent interests of the Democratic party, the delegates and leaders of the national convention, and the general public. For purposes of analysis, the latter group is considered to include the

President, although he was obviously the object of the other efforts as well.

As Will Rogers once quipped, the Democrats constitute “no organized party.” Rather, they are a heterogeneous assembly of divergent interests. Humphrey attempted to win support from all of these various groups. Labor backing was vital. In March, Walter

Reuther blocked a movement at the annual convention of the United Automobile Workers to endorse Robert Kennedy for Vice-President.

9TheNew YorkTimes,January3, 1964, p. 10. ‘0Ibid., July 31, 1964, p. 1.

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He then campaignedamong his union colleagues for Humphrey. By July, all members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council had indicated their support of the Minnesotan, and George Meany, president of the labor federation, was particularly emphatic in his support.-‘ These endorsementswere important not only as a direct aid to the Senator. They also indicated that Robert Kennedy lacked some of the support his brother held in 1960. Polls of labor leaders, taken at the behest of the Humphrey staff, also indicated strong labor endorsement of the Senator. Similarly, polls among Demo- cratic farm leaders indicated wide backing for the Minnesotan, and

this preference was reinforced by that of party leaders from farm areas.

The Senator had the early support of civil rights groups, be- cause of his long championingof their cause and his currentleader- ship of the Senate floor fight. When cloture was invoked and a strong civil rights act passed under Humphrey’s leadership, his standing with these groups was further strengthened. This demon- stration of legislative skill also caused Humphrey to exult that “an albatross has now become my greatest asset.”

Humphrey strength was notable within the party organization. A June Gallup poll of 3,000 county chairmen showed him ahead of all other contenders as the personal preference of the chairmen. Leading Robert Kennedy, the runner-upin the poll, by nearly a 2-1 margin, Humphrey headed the field in all regions but the South. In that area, he trailed Stevenson and Senator William Fulbright. With these exceptions, the Minnesotan led all other possibilities by a 2-1 marginin Southernchairmen’spreferences.

Opposition to Humphrey existed, but was restricted. As shown in the poll of chairmen,he was relatively weak in the South, where his liberalism alienated many, but not all, voters and leaders. Thus, most Southern Senators favored other candidates, but the majority whip did win the endorsement of some Southern colleagues. This support was rendered even as the protracted civil rights filibuster continued.

The Minnesotan also lacked support from the bulk of the re- maining big city “machines,”such as those of Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. In part, this position was based on loyalty to

“‘Seeibid., March23, 1964,p. 21, for an accountof the UAW convention. The labor endorsementsof Humphreyare confirmedby TheodoreH. White, The Making of the President 1964 (New York: Atheneum, 1965), p. 273.

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Robert Kennedy and the desire to have a Catholic on the national ticket. Moreover, Humphrey’s liberalism, intellectualism, and ef- fusiveness, as well as his rural, Protestant heritage, were alien and suspect. Thesegroups,however,wereneithersufficientlyconcerned nor sufficiently powerful to attempt to block Humphrey. Signifi- cantly, they were not united. In New York, for example, while older “bosses,” such as Charles Buckley of the Bronx personally opposed Humphrey, younger “reform” elements supported the Senator.

The only other element of the party potentially opposed to Humphrey was the business community. Normally, a Democratic ticket expects and seeks only limited support from industry. In

1964, however, the Republican party’s nomination of Barry Gold- water and President Johnson’s personal stress on national unity indicated increased importance for this group within the party. To gain its endorsement, Humphrey attended a series of private recep- tions for business leaders in July, seeking to allay suspicions that he was unfriendly to their interests, and accepted invitations to address groups such as the American Management Association.

No direct solicitations were made of those present at the busi- ness receptions, but volunteers were asked to let the President know their opinion of Humphrey. Others offered financial help or spoke to other businessmen on his behalf. Although all of them did not later support Humphrey, those attending the meetings included President Eisenhower’s Treasury Secretary, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, and executives of such firms as Sears Roebuck, Metropolitan Life Insurance, General Dynamics, New York Central Railroad, Anaconda, and Inland Steel. Members of both parties and leaders of corporationsof various sizes were in- cluded. The emphasis was toward proportionately greater repre- sentation of Democrats and middle-sized firms.

These various efforts were directed in part at gaining the support of the President. They were undertaken, however, in recognition of the fact that the President would be influenced by the opinions of the many elements in the Democratic coalition. That Johnson did not have a completely free choice was indicated by the elimina- tion of Defense Secretary McNamara. This occurred well before the July 30 announcement. Labor leaders strongly objected to the inclusion of a former corporation president on the national ticket, particularly one associated with the Ford Motor Company, a tra-

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ditional opponent of Walter Reuther’s Automobile Workers. Mc- Namara’s rejection of a 1961 AFL-CIO nomination for a Defense Department position had also aroused resentment. Party organiza- tion leaders, particularly the Michigan state party and National Chairman John Bailey, also were severely critical of the possible nomination of a non-political figure and one, moreover, who had voted for and contributed large sums to the Republican party. Faced with these objections, the President recognized the political limits on his freedom of choice and rejected the Defense head.

The second major effort in the pre-convention campaign was directed toward the party convention delegates. This effort was care- fully discreet. No “pressure”was applied, and the Humphrey group was extremely cautious to avoid any action which might seem to be an attempt to force the hand of the President. The basic purpose was defensive, to be prepared for any change in the situation.

Many of the actions in this period were directed toward pre- paring for a possible floor fight. In part, this preparationwas due to memories of the 1956 convention, when Adlai Stevenson had allowed the convention a free choice of his running-mate. Surprised on that occasion, and conditioned by their past experience, Humph- rey backers did not want to be caught off guard again should Johnson allow the delegates to make the decision. Few, however, expected the President to permit this freedom. Far more likely, it was thought, was an attempt to stampede the convention into the nomination of Robert Kennedy by an emotional invocation of the late President’s memory. Such an attempt was feared even after the July 30 statement.

To prepare for any open contest, the Humphrey group began to canvass delegates. Although similar in many respects to a Presi- dential campaign, the effort was far more reserved. The friend-

ships, contacts, and knowledge gained in four previous conventions were put to use. The Senator’s supportershad learned, in Theodore White’s words, “The root question of American politics is always: Who’s the Man to See? To understandAmericanpolitics is, simply, to know people, to know the relative weight of names-who are heroes, who are straw meni,who controls and who does not.”‘2

Delegates were won without primary election contests or open attempts to win commitments from state parties. In a few cases,

2White, op. cit. (1961), p. 136.

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known supportersof the Senator were contacted and asked, if possi- ble, to win designation as convention delegates. Since no contests were expected at the national convention, party leaders of moderate influence were able to win places without controversy. In order to judge the strength of the various candidates, a letter and informal poll was sent to pro-Humphreyleaders in each state. Dated July 30, the letter asked for the preferencesof each delegate among four Vice-Presidentialpossibilities: Robert Kennedy, Humphrey, Shriver, and Stevenson. Space was left for indications of the past convention status of the delegates and remarks. Copies of the poll results were to be sent to a designated “local coordinator”and to the unnamed “resident” at a suburban Washington address. The anonymity of the poll indicates how careful the Humphrey group was to avoid an open campaign and to respect the freedom of the President. The date of the letter, and its list of names, indicates that the Senator’s backers were not informed any considerable time before the President eliminated the major rivals of the Minnesotan.

In reply to the poll, varying assessments were received. A majority of the delegates were prepared to accept Johnson’s Vice- Presidential preference, but among the contenders, Humphrey had the most support. With this information, his backers were reason- ably well-informed as to the sources of support for each possible candidate. Robert Kennedy, in this informal poll, was shown to be the second strongest contender. However, his support was less broadly based than that of Humphrey, being centered in the north- east. AlmostallsoutherndelegationswerestronglyopposedtoKen- nedy’s nomination. Significantly, while not enthusiastic about Humphrey, they were willing to accept his designation. Some dele- gates favorable to Humphrey not only answered the poll, but also announced their preference to the local press or wrote to the Presi- dent on Humphrey’s behalf.

Even the best of plans might go astray. Some preliminary thought was given to a convention organization, but these tentative plans ultimately were abandoned. Many in the Humphrey group feared that the convention would become “an emotional bath” in memory of John Kennedy, and that this would lead to the nomi- nation of the Attorney-Generalfor Vice-President. In news inter- views and in a trip to Poland and Germany, Robert Kennedy seemed to be publicizing his qualifications. A poll taken by this writer indicated that he was the choice of a plurality of New Jersey

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delegates, and similar support in other states had been found by the Humphrey group. Rumors were current that Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy would attend the convention to arouse emotional support for her brother-in-law.

To avert a Kennedy bandwagon, Humphrey backers hoped for public support of the Senator by President Johnson before the opening of the convention, and these wishes were partially met by the public disapproval of Robert Kennedy on July 30. Their anx- ieties were further relieved when the Democratic National Commit- tee changed the convention program, deferring a special memorial tribute to President Kennedy, introduced by his brother, until after the nominations were made. The postponement was also announced on July 30, reportedly after a personal decision by the President.13 In the event, the memorial did become the occasion for a spontane- ous emotional demonstration. Delay helped Humphrey.

The President’s actions left the Humphrey staff free to concen- trate on building support for their own candidate, rather than defending against any other possibility. After the July 30 state- ment, the White House, probably upon the personal direction of President Johnson, encouraged Humphrey to develop support in his own cause.’4 The Senator and his staff then expanded the third phase of the campaign, seeking the support of the more general public. Best characterized by one aide as “a campaign not of silence, but of restraint,” it was oriented toward gaining the en- dorsement of influential officials, public spokesmen and the press, without stimulating a mass movement which might offend the President.

One means of maintaining this delicate balance was to isolate Senator Humphrey himself from most of the overt activity. The sampling of delegate sentiment and other sensitive tasks were left to the staff and friends. The Senator kept himself before the public by his activities in the Senate. He accepted a number of invitations for television interviews, speeches and press conferences. Though

non-political in inspiration and content, a half-hour television pro- gram on “My Childhood”was particularly effective.

Humphrey also continued his contract for television commen-

“The New YorkTimes,July 31, 1964, p. 9.

“White, op. cit. (1965), p. 273, confirms this statement and names James Rowe as the source of encouragement. It seems unlikely that Rowe acted with- out prompting in so vital a matter.

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taries during the convention with A.B.C. The Minnesotan had many personal reasons, including financial need, for adhering to his earlier commitment. Politically, it would have been difficult to withdraw from the agreement without appearing to pressure the President. For similar reasons, Humphrey continued as a delegate to the con- vention and even appeared on the floor before his own nomination.

While the Senator remained available, discreet public support was stimulated. At this time, all politically important visitors to the White House were being asked their opinions on the ticket. Even Senator Humphrey was asked about his rivals. As he de- scribed the situation later to a reporter,”It’s like a guy calling the girl next door-who he knows is madly in love with him-to ask the phone number of the newest broad in town.’15 When friends of the Senator expressed a desire to aid his nomination efforts, they were provided with basic information. A diagram was prepared, comparing the biographies of the leading potential nominees. With- out comment, it demonstrated the greater variety of experience and longer political services of the Senator. One could note, for example, that in 1948 Humphrey had been a leader in the Demo- cratic convention and had been elected to the Senate. In the same year, Robert Kennedy had entered law school, McNamara had held a middle-level management position, and Eugene McCarthy had been elected to his first term in the lower house of Congress.

The Senator ultimately won the endorsementof a large number of opinion leaders, including some 40 Democratic Senators and, according to a White House survey, “nearly all significant party figures in 26 states and the District of Columbia, and a clear ma- jority in six additional states.”’16The mass media were also con- tacted discreetly, and some columnists and editorial writers virtually endorsed the Minnesotan. The New York Times, for example, while making the customary acknowledgementthat “the power to choose his running mate lies, as it always has, with President John- son,” also pointedly described Humphrey as “a man with experi- ence, broad interests and demonstrated integrity and capacity

a man of Presidential quality.”‘7
Through most of their campaign, the Humphrey group had em-

phasized the argument of “the next best man.” As their campaign

“Ihe Making of HHH,” Newsweek (September 7, 1964), p. 19. “8TheNew York Times, August 17, 1964, p. 1.

17Ibid. August 18, 1964, p. 30.

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widened, they attempted to prove the electoral appeal of the Senator as well. At first, this was a purely defensive maneuver. Great suspicion was voiced about the membersand staff of the Democratic National Committee, and their possible support of the Attorney- General. Members of the Senator’s staff, in some cases, felt that the President might receive incorrect reports, warning him of possi- ble defeat in November unless he ran with Robert Kennedy.

More positively, the Humphrey group attempted to demonstrate the political strength the Minnesotan would bring to the ticket. A poll taken by the White House showed that Robert Kennedy was indeed the most popular of the Vice-Presidential possibilities, but that Adlai Stevenson was considered the most qualified. Significantly,

Humphrey placed second in both categories, indicating that he might be the best over-all choice. In late May, a national sample was questioned on the standing of a possible Republican ticket of Goldwaterand William Scrantonin opposition to Democratic tickets of Johnson and Humphrey and Johnson and Robert Kennedy. In these matchings, the Johnson-Humphreyticket received 2.1% more of the “vote” than the Johnson-Kennedy slate. The Senator’s ad- vantage held in all subdivisions of the sample except among Cath- olics but, still, a Johnson-Humphreyticket received of that

group’s support.
The nomination of Goldwater was also turned to Humphrey’s

advantage. Geographically, the nomination made the Mid-West, where the Minnesotan was strongest, the crucial area for November. The Republican choice also centered the contest for marginal guber- natorial, senatorial and congressional seats on this area. The Democrats could now regard the East as relatively safe, making it unnecessary to nominate a candidate from that area, such as Robert Kennedy. Analyzing probable patterns of group voting, a number of political scientists found reasons to support Humph- rey’s candidacy. Seen as crucial to the party were a large increase in the number of Negro voters, a consolidation of union members behind the ticket and an appeal to farmers of the Mid-West and the Plains.

To win this support, it was argued, would require an intensive campaign by a well-known, popular and effective candidate. Since such an effort could not be mounted by an incumbent President, it would fall to the running-mate. Humphrey,it was said, did have the stamina and popularity to win new Negro support, curtail the


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“white backlash” among union members, encourage a defection among Republican farmers, and assume much of the campaign’s duties for the President.18

To be sure, Humphrey still representedsome political liabilities. He was relatively weak in the South and among businessmen and Catholics. The importance of each of these groups was indicated, respectively, by Goldwater’s “Southern strategy,” his conservative ideology and his Catholic running-mate,William Miller. However, the long pre-convention campaign had lessened the opposition to Humphrey’s nomination among all of these groups. As the Demo- crats prepared to open their convention, the Minnesota Senator w-asclearly in a leading, if not yet dominant, position.

At the Convention

In Atlantic City, the attitude of the Senator and his staff was a combination of hope and anxiety. All were sure that Humphrey was the choice of the various elements of the party and that he was accepted by the delegates and the public as “the next best man.” They believed, too, that he was the President’s own personal prefer- ence. It was now clear that Robert Kennedy would not challenge his elimination from the contest, but was instead preparing to run for United States Senator from New York. Nevertheless, problems remained.

The first of these was keeping Humphrey activities within bounds. By the time of the convention, the support of the Minne- sotan had become so obvious that it was dangerous. The Senator’s group feared that the President would feel himself pressured and, in order to reassert his own power, would recommend another candidate. To avoid offending and alienating the President, plans for the convention were drastically revised. Humphrey’s headquar- ters at the Shelburne Hotel became instead the Minnesota delega- tion’s headquarters (and therefore available for use by Senator McCarthy as well). Reservations for large numbers of rooms were cancelled or forfeited. The staff, including Humphrey’s administra- tive assistant, was scattered through many hotels in Atlantic City, with many listed as attached to A.B.C. rather than to the Senator.

“8Thereportwas preparedby Donald G. Herzberg,directorof the Eagleton Instituteof Politicsat RutgersUniversity,afterconsultingvariousassociates, includingthe presentauthor.

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Many efforts were made to dampen any overt campaign. A reception on the convention eve was sponsored by the Minnesota state delegation, rather than by the Senator. Staff members were told not to discuss the Vice-Presidential nomination in public. If asked, they were to reply that the President was free to make his own decision, and that all persons should support that decision. Humphrey took this position himself on the innumerableoccasions he was asked for personal comments. In this atmosphere of un- certainty, rumor and anxiety flourished.’9

A second and more serious threat to Humphrey was the con- test over the seating of the Mississippi delegation. The regular and all-white delegation was challenged by the “Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.” This integrated group had little legal claim to convention seats, based on state law and past practice. It did have a strong moral claim, however, considering the deliberate exclu- sion of Negroes from political participation in Mississippi, the spate of segregationist terrorismin the state during the summer,and the likelihood of disloyalty to the national ticket by the regular organization.

In terms of convention politics, the Mississippi contest did not really center on that state. Whatever the decision, it seemed unlikely that Negroes would be permitted political participation in the state, that the regular party would support the national ticket, or that Johnson would carry the state in the November election. The real concern of the party leadership, including John- son and Humphrey, was to avoid a floor fight. They wished to present an image of unity and rationality to the national television audience, in contrast to the emotionalism and divisiveness of the Republican convention at San Francisco. They wanted also to pre- vent a walkout of other Southern delegations, and a consequent weakening of the party’s strength in the region of Senator Gold- water’s greatest appeal.

It fell to Humphrey, by dint of the President’s request and his. own prominence at the convention, to seek a formula which would satisfy these demands. The Senator was in a delicate position. Since he was relatively weak in the South, he had to conciliate that section. A walkout by Southern delegates, moreover, might con-

19Theinfluenceof rumor at a national conventionis vividly describedby Aaron Wildavskyin “What Can I Do?: Ohio DelegatesView the Democratic Convention,”in Paul Tillett, (ed.), Inside Politics: The National Conventions 1960 (New Brunswick:Rutgers-The State University, 1962), pp. 112-119.

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vince the President and the party that the ticket requireda more moderate candidate for Vice-President. Even if he had wanted to, however, Humphrey could not consider the Southernposition alone. A floor fight could be obtained if eleven delegations on the Creden- tials Committee signed a minority report and if eight delegations requested a roll call vote. The Senator, therefore, had to find a settlement which would represent an overwhelming consensus, not merely a majority position.

At first, the Senator argued for a three-point proposal known as the “Wymong plan.” The regular Mississippi delegation would be seated, if it took a loyalty oath to the party. The Freedomparty would be welcomed as non-voting guests of the convention. Finally, in the future, state parties would “assure that voters in the state, regardless of race, color, creed or national origin, will have the opportunity to participate fully in party affairs.” The proposal was presented to a subcommittee headed by Walter Mondale, At- torney-General of Minnesota and a Humphrey supporter. It won endorsement there by a 4-1 vote, but failed to win the necessary

consensus in the full committee.
To leave time for more bargaining, the report of the committee

was delayed for 24 hours. In this period, one change was made. “In recognition of the unusual circumstances presented at the hearing, and without setting any precedent for the future,” two members of the Freedom Democratic party would be seated as voting “delegates-at-large.” The Humphrey communications net- work was activated, every state delegation was contacted, and the influence of the White House was brought to bear. The new plan won the support of sufficient delegations to prevent an open con- vention conflict. The compromisewas rejected by both Mississippi factions, but Humphrey’s objectives had been fully met. The party had recognized the moral claims involved and had taken at least a token action against discriminationin party affairs. Party unity had been preserved and all but the intransigent Alabama and Mississippi delegations had remained loyal.

For the Senator, the result was a personal success. Dealing with an emotional issue in the frenetic atmosphere of the conven- tion, he had solidified a broad coalition within the party. He had demonstrated his leadership without severely antagonizing any element. The solution of the credentials contest removed the last potentially serious obstacle to his nomination.

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It was still conceivable that the President would indicate a different choice, and accomplish his selection. At this point, how- ever, there would be an extremely high price to pay in disaffection and resentment. The President had preserved his freedom of ac- tion to meet any new development, but no such development had occurred.The Minnesotan had come to the convention as the lead- ing candidate. While there he had retained, even strengthened, his position.

The remaining period was one of waiting on the part of the Senator and of managed drama by the President. By Tuesday, the day before the nomination, the Senator was informally notified of his selection. Buttons, signs, and hats with “Johnson and Humph- rey” designations-in preparation for a week-were ordered for final delivery to a private home. Aides began writing an acceptance speech. Johnson, in Washington, continued to suggest names, to fence with reporters,and to build tension. Finally, on Wednesday, hoursbeforethenominationitselfwasschedulecdh,ecalledHumph- rey to the White House.

The final dramatic moment came that evening immediately after Johnson had been nominated by acclamation. In an unprecedented action, he appeared to announce his choice of a running-mate. His speech indicated the success of the Humphrey group’s basic strategy. The President argued their thesis, that the Vice-President should be “a man best qualified to assume the office of President of the United States, should that day come…. This is not a sec- tional choice; this is not merely just a way to balance the ticket; this is simply the best man in Americafor this job.” He indicated as well

the success of the campaign to win public support for the Senator, when he noted that the choice was reached “after discussions with outstanding Americans in every area of our national life” and represented “the enthusiastic conviction of the great majority of the Democratic party.”20 Humphrey’s nomination by acclamation followed.

The political value of the long selection process was indicated the following week when the Harris survey asked voters their opinions of the Vice-Presidential nominees. Humphrey led the Republican candidate by a 7-3 margin. Moreover, he was pre- ferred over Miller more than the President was preferred over

“0TheNew York Times, August 27, 1964, p. 23.

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Goldwaterin every area of the country and among virtually every social group. Significantly, the major reason for Humphrey’s sup- port was that he was considered “better qualified, [more] experi- enced” than his opponent.2′ The public, too, had accepted the thesis of the “next best man.” The final test of this choice came on November 3, when Hubert Humphrey was elected Vice-Presi- dent of the United States.


The nomination of Senator Humphrey points the way to the future of the Vice-Presidency. In the past, whatever attention was given to the office centered on its governmental,rather than political, aspects. This focus was evident among politicians as well as acad- emicians.22 The recent history of the Vice-Presidency should serve both to increase attention to the office in general and to foster particular interest in its political character.

It seems likely that we will find more campaigningfor the office of “second counsel” in forthcoming elections. The Presidential nomination itself has gradually become the object of public and vigorous campaigning. As some candidates adopt these practices

for the running-mate position as well, others will be required to follow their example.23 Such efforts will certainly be evident when an incumbent President is a candidate for renomination. With the top position on the ticket thereby foreclosed, ambitions will be directed toward the second slot. Campaigningis unlikely, however, to attain fully the intensive, openly competitive and mass character of a Presidentialeffort.The influenceof the Presidentand otherparty leaders will remain too great to enable a candidate to win nomina-

2″TheHarrisSurvey,in The PhiladelphiaInquirer,September4, 1964,p. 3.

22Most of the literatureis concernedeither with the duties-or lack of them -of the Vice-Presidentor the problemsof Presidentialsuccession. Aside from the works cited above and below, see John D. Feerick,From Failing Hands

(New York: FordhamUniversityPress, 1965); Louis C. Hatch and Earl R. Shoup, A History of the Vice-Presidencyof the United States (New York: AmericanHistoricalSociety, 1934); ClintonL. Rossiter,”TheReformof the Vice-Presidency,”Political Science Quarterly,Vol. 63 (September,1948), pp. 383-403; Ruth C. Silva, PresidentialSuccession (Ann Arbor: University of MichiganPress, 1951); Irving G. Williams,The AmericanVice-Presidency: NewLook(NewYork:Doubleday,1954);LuciusWilmerding”,TheVice-Pres- idency,”Political ScienceQuarterly,Vol. 68 (March, 1953), pp. 17-41.

2″SeeGeraldPomper,Nominatingthe President(Evanston:Northwestern UniversityPress, 1963), chaps.5, 7, 8.

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tion largely on the basis of popular backing.24 The attempt, rather, will be to gain the support of important factions and to use evi- dence of voter appeal to win such backing.

The campaigns for the two nominations will be alike in one other respect. They will be exercises in the building of coalitions. The entire nominating process is one of building a majority coali- tion. In the past, the Vice-Presidential nomination has been one of the prizes used to build a consensus in support of the ticket- leader. If the Humphrey case is indicative, the second spot will no longer be simply a trading device. There will be efforts to build a consensus behind this choice separately or, more likely, the same coalition will be evident in the selections of both candidates. We are less likely to see “balanced”tickets, in which the two running- mates represent distinctively different positions. In both parties in

1964, there was an ideological consistency to the tickets that is startling when compared to such combinations of the recent past as Dewey and Bricker or Stevenson and Sparkman.

The choice of a coalition, by definition, is different from the choice of a single individual, even one with the responsibilities and political acumen of the President. The common belief, con- stantly reiterated in 1964, is that the Presidential nominee selects his own runningmate. This view, albeit with guardedqualifications,

is also frequent in the scholarly literature. “The Presidential nomi- nee ordinarily can, in fact, make the choice, although the range of his discretion may differ with circumstances,”25wrote V. 0. Key. “When a presidential nominee is named, he and other party leaders sit around in a room and select the vice-presidentialcandidate,”26 declared an experiencedpolitician. “The opinion of the presidential

24AsDonald Young suggests, “Most campaignsfor the second office will continue to be conducted under cover, since in most cases the Presidential candidate will make the choice, and he will not likely react favorably to effortsto bringpublicpressureto bearin behalfof a particularcandidate.”See AmericanRoulette (New York: Holt, Rinehartand Winston,1965), p. 313.

“‘V.0. Key, Jr., Politics,Partiesand PressureGroups,5th ed. (New York: Crowell,1964), p. 429.

“CharlesHalleck,cited by Hugh A. Bone, AmericanPolitics and the Party System,3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill,1965), p. 333.

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nominee is always the most important influence,”27 according to others.

A closer look at the record of vice-presidential nominations, however, results in a different conclusion. Paul David examined the four conventions since 1896 in which an incumbent President sought renominationwhen the Vice-Presidencywas vacant. In all four cases, “the President was able to exercise only limited influ- ence on the situation…. Seemingly the choice tended to be made by the convention, with other leaders exercising as much influence as the President.”28 Even in 1964, there were limits on the Presi- dent, though they were less constrictive than in the past.

Not only is this contention incorrect; it is wrong as a matter of principle. In a free society, there is nothing inherently objec- tionable in the nomination being “an instrument of compromise- compromise between factions, between sections, between interests and even perhaps between back room political bargainers.”29No democratic system can easily accept the proposition that the vital choice of future leadership is the prerogative of any single indi- vidual. In 1964, the President did endorse the individual who was the clear choice of the majority of delegates and of party factions. The outcome, then, did not violate fundamental demo- cratic beliefs. The proposition of unlimited Presidential discretion, however, does violate these beliefs.

The emotions aroused by the assassination of John Kennedy permitted the unusual freedom accorded the new President. It was felt that he was entitled, in effect, to name a successor to his now-

“7MalcolmMoosandStephenHess,HatsintheRing(NewYork:Random House, 1960), p. 157. See also William Goodman,The Two-Party System in the UnitedStates, 2nd ed. (Princeton:D. Van Nostrand,1960), p. 213-“The presidentialnomineeby well-establishedcustomis consideredto be entitledto a majorvoicein the selectionof his runningmateandin somecasesdesignates him outright.”

“8PauTl.David,RalphM.GoldmanandRichardC.Bain,ThePoliticsof National Party Conventions (Washington:The BrookingsInstitution, 1960), p. 59.

29EdgarW. Waugh, Second Counsel (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill,1956), p. 198. Waugh’s own preferenceis uncertain. He seems to disapprove of bargainingforthevice-presidentianlominationandevenabstractlytofavoran appointive vice-president.His final conclusion,however, is: “It is good to have competitionfor the nomination.But the competitionshould be among those whom the Presidentialcandidatehas indicated as highly acceptableto him.” In practicalterms, such a method might be no more than a disguisefor dictationby the Presidentialnominee.See Ibid., pp. 198-208.

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vacant office, and that Kennedy’s successful choice of Johnson indicated the desirability of unlimited freedom. However, Kennedy did not act alone-he stated his preference and then worked among the leaders of his party to win agreement. This is far different from leaders passively accepting a designation. The Dallas tragedy should remind us of the significance of the Vice-Presidency and of the importance of the choice of a man to that office. In a democracy, important choices must be made through widespread participation, not through the personal preferences of a few leaders.

The nomination of Hubert Humphrey was accomplished in part through such participation, but it offends a democrat’s sense of decency that any one individual should be accorded even the theoretical right to deny the popular choice. Whatever our reac- tion to the specific selection made in 1964, we should reject the premise. Consent, not dictation, is the basic process of free government.

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