MAY 17, 2012
ONIONS BURKE & THE 1956 CONVENTION V
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we conclude our report on Chapter 4 of the book by Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers with Joe McCarthy. It is published by Little, Brown & Company.
The title of Chapter 4 is Onions Burke & The 1956 Convention.
Kenneth O’Donnell says that JFK’s “sudden rise to nationwide political prominence” took party leaders by surprise.
Kenny writes about the circumstances surrounding Jack’s bid for the Vice-Presidential spot on the 1956 Democratic ticket.
He says that JFK stirred interest particularly in those delegates who saw Kennedy on the ticket as a boost to their own local candidates for office.
It was clear, according to Kenny, that JFK did not have serious intentions of seeking the VP nomination BEFORE the convention.
But the mounting pressure during the convention against Stevenson’s prospective VP choice, Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, forced Adlai to throw the choice open to the delegates themselves.
While JFK was “in no great hurry to rush into an open fight for the VP nomination,” he also felt pressured by those delegates who were backing his candidacy.
On the 1st ballot, Kefauver had 483.5 to JFK’s 304. Tennessee’s other senator, Albert Gore, Sr. followed with 178.
On the 2nd ballot, JFK picked up voters & came within just 33.5 votes of winning.
He got no closer, Estes Kefauver won the VP nomination.
While JFK was angry & frustrated at having lost, he was even more frustrated with his staff when he said:
“This morning all of you were telling me to get into this thing & now you’re telling me I should feel happy because I lost….”
By Thanksgiving, JFK had decided to run for the Presidency in 1960. He told Dave Powers:
“With only about 4 hours of work & a handful of supporters, I came within 33.5 votes of winning the VP nomination. If I work hard for 4 years, I ought to be able to pick up all the marbles.”