November 1st, 1960

Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 00:00

FROM THE ARCHIVES:With a week to go to the US elections in 1960, Senator John F Kennedy and Vice-President Richard Nixon were running neck and neck but the outcome – decided by less than a quarter of 1 per cent – was predicted correctly by this editorial. - JOE JOYCE

In a week’s time the American Presidential election campaign will have run its course: Mr Eisenhower will then be succeeded either by Vice-President Nixon, of the Republican Party, or by Senator Kennedy, of the Democratic Party.

There has probably never been an election in the course of which the pundits – or, as they are now called, pollsters – have been so reluctant to forecast the outcome.

Nobody seems to have any fixed idea of whether Mr Nixon or Mr Kennedy is going to win the race: all that even the most potent analysts are prepared to say is that the winner will come home by a nose. There are Americans who resent the critical interest in the campaign which has been – and is being – taken by the world outside. Such people forget, perhaps, that their country has assumed the leadership of the anti-Communist world.

It would be incorrect to state that she is the leader of the non-Communist world, since the latter includes the uncommitted nations of Asia and Africa, for the loyalty of which both groups have been competing frantically at the United Nations. The next President of America, of course, is of vital importance to the whole world, and the choice will be watched with as much keenness in Moscow as anywhere else.

The main difference between the two candidates is that, while Mr Nixon, of necessity, has to argue that the policies of the administration which he has long represented . . . have made the best of things, Senator Kennedy is able to maintain an opposition point of view – that all is not well, either at home or abroad, and that radical changes must be made.

Mr Nixon is a tough politician, whose record suggests that he goes where the wind blows. Nobody is quite sure how Mr Kennedy will perform. It may well be that he intends to model his career on that of Franklin Roosevelt, whose election brought a high wind of liberalism into every aspect of American politics.

There is little doubt that Mr Kennedy lacks the perspicacious charm of F.D.R., but his conduct in debate, and particularly at informal public meetings, shows that he has definite opinions and hard principles of a liberal tinge.

It remains to be seen whether or not the issue which has been made of his religion, his attitude to the U-2 incident [in which a secret US spy plane, the U2, was shot down over the Soviet Union], his remarks on the off-shore islands of Quemoy and Matsu [front-line islands between Taiwan and China which both candidates had pledged to protect against Communist attack], and his comments on Cuba will do him more harm than good.

The floating voters will decide the day; and until the day comes nobody can decide in which direction they will swing.

At the moment, however, it seems that the small advantage lies with Senator Kennedy.

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