Historical Investigation on 1960 Election: How Televised Debates Affect the Outcome of the Election

Topics: John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, Richard Nixon Pages: 7 (2259 words) Published: January 13, 2013
To what extent did televised debates affect the outcome of the presidential campaign during 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon?

Frank Guo
IB Candidate
Word Count: 1,850

Part A: Plan of Investigation
This investigation evaluates the extent to which the televised debates affected the outcome of the campaign in 1960 between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. In order to evaluate the impact of the televised debates, this investigation will focus on the general public evaluations of candidates both prior, during, and after the Great Debates of 1960. The evaluation before the debates will be used to compare to the evaluation after the debates in order to determine the impact that great debates had on the 1960 Presidential Election.

The two sources selected for evaluation, The First Modern Campaign Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960 by Gary A. Donaldson and The Power of Television Debate: The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate Revisited by James N Druckman. Both of these sources will be evaluated for their origins, purposes, limitations, and values.

PART B: Summary of Evidence
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born into a wealthy Catholic family in Massachusetts. His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, had been a prominent American investor, business man, and government official. Kennedy made numerous recognizable works during his years in Harvard Law School that later helped him in becoming the Senator of Massachusetts in 1955. Additionally, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and played football while in college. He married Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953 and later had two children. When he was running for president in 1960 as the Democratic nominee, he was recognized by the public as an athlete, intellectual, war hero, family man, and passionate liberal. At 43, Kennedy was the youngest and only Catholic candidate to ever run for President. He relied on a liberal motto of “moving again” and used an estimate of $1.5-$2.5 million on his campaigns. Meanwhile, being born into a poor household, Richard Nixon had an excellent record at Whittier College and Duke University Law School. After serving as a Navy Lieutenant commander in 1940 he was elected to congress in 1950. Nixon eventually became the Vice President of the United States under Dwight Eisenhower from 1953-1961, and by then he had been in the public eyes for 8 years. Like many Americans, Nixon thought John F. Kennedy was inexperienced, and he felt confident that he can use his prior TV experiences and debating skills against Kennedy and “sucker punch” him out of the campaign. Nixon also had a lot of support outside his own party. A poll suggested that Nixon could get about 90 percent support from his own party, 20 percent from Democrats, and over 50 percent on independents. Using his popularity that he gained during his many trips around American under President Eisenhower’s orders, he easily became the Republican nominee especially after his toughest rival; Nelson Rockefeller, had declined to run for president. During the first debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, 70 million viewers tuned into CBS to watch the first ever televised debate. Kennedy had a whole team of helpers and looked like a “movie star” with his tanned skin and black suit. Meanwhile, Nixon prepped alone and had recently just recovered from a knee injury, he was wearing grey suit which matched the background of the set. His face was swollen and yet he declined make-up because he thought it wouldn’t be good for his public image to wear make-up while Kennedy wasn’t. The result of his appearance was horrible, “Nixon look like death, while Kennedy was bronzed beautifully,” said the president of CBS, Frank Stanton. In the second debate however, Nixon came back well prepared, he spoke well against Kennedy, and debate was seen as a draw between the two candidates. On the third debate, Nixon attacked Kennedy on being too soft against communism. He spoke confidently and...
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