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    John F. Kennedy: 1960 Campaign Telegram. Two pages, 7.75" x 9", on Western Union letterhead, March 17, 1960. With the 1960 presidential election looming on the horizon, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy wished to establish himself on the national stage and prove that he could capture votes despite his Roman Catholic beliefs. Kennedy knew that a defeat of fellow Democratic Party presidential candidate, Hubert Humphrey, a senator from Minnesota, in the Wisconsin primary would do just that. Just weeks away from the primary, Humphrey, who was well aware of Kennedy's oratorical skills, challenged his young opponent to a debate. In this telegram addressed to Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman, who would nominate Kennedy for the presidency at the 1960 Democratic Convention four months later, Kennedy lays out his reasons for refusing Humphrey's request, in full:

    "Many thanks for your wire concerning Adlai Stevenson's proposal for TV debates. His article called for such debates between the nominees of the two parties in the weeks immediately preceding the November election. I know that he would not favor such debates between members of the same party, recalling his own debate with Senator Kefauver in the Florida primary which was inconclusive and dull due to a lack of substantial differences. I have said many times that Senator Humphrey and I share basically the same outlook on every major issue confronting the nation in 1960 and that no constructive purpose would be served by attacking each other. We have spoken many times from the same platform in recent months. No doubt we shall do so again in the future. But neither of us has used such opportunities to engage in any debated or intra-party argument. My schedule between now and primary day is already fully committed and I intend to spend that time running for president and not running against anyone. I am hopeful that this course will best serve the interests of our party in Wisconsin and nationally and help maintain the warm friendship and mutual respect which I believe Senator Humphrey and I have always shared."

    Less than three weeks after sending this telegram, on April 5, Kennedy captured 56% of the vote to Humphrey's 44% in the Wisconsin primary. Humphrey was defeated again the following month in the West Virginia primary. Kennedy would go on to carry ten states and the party's nomination for president. Smoothed folds; upper left corners of both pages show damage from stapling. Both leaves are matted separately and framed to an overall size of 16.25" x 28.5".

    Shortly after Kennedy's election as president, Governor Freeman, who had just lost his own bid for reelection as Minnesota's governor, was appointed by the new president to be secretary of agriculture, a post he held until 1969.

    Following his failed run at the presidency, Hubert Humphrey returned to the Senate. During the 1964 presidential election, he expressed interest in running as Johnson's vice president. The pair won the election and Humphrey became the 38th vice president, but again failed to capture the presidency when he ran in 1968.


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    May, 2015
    18th Monday
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