Los Angeles, California (JFK+50) Fifty-five years ago today, July 12, 1960, two candidates for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, squared off against each other in a nationally televised debate.
The hour-long debate was conducted without a moderator before the combined delegations of Massachusetts and Texas at the Biltmore Hotel ballroom. It began at 5 p.m. local time.
Senator Johnson had challenged Senator Kennedy to the debate, held the day before the balloting, after JFK had offered to meet with any delegation that invited him.
LBJ introduced JFK who gave an opening statement lasting ten minutes. Senator Kennedy acknowledged that many of the Texas delegates, who outnumbered the Massachusetts delegates by a large margin, would not support his civil rights proposals.
Senator Johnson followed with a twenty minute opening statement in which he pointed to his efforts on the floor of the United States Senate "while some men who would be president" were absent. He, of course, was making reference to JFK being out campaigning in the primaries instead of taking care of his Senate responsibilities.
JFK closed the debate by complimenting LBJ on his work in the Senate and saying that he supported the Texas senator's decision not to enter the primaries. JFK also expressed his hope that LBJ would continue in his role as majority leader.
Since JFK went on to win the nomination on the first ballot the following evening, it is natural to conclude he won the debate with LBJ, but Senator Johnson did secure the support of some uncommitted Texas delegates and "won almost all former slave states" in the balloting on July 13th.
In addition, Lyndon B. Johnson, without having campaigned in a single one of the sixteen primaries, was selected by JFK as his vice-presidential running mate and the rest is history.
"Kennedy-Johnson Debate," Our Campaigns, www.ourcampaigns.com/
"The Great Debate, JFK's legacy: The party's over," by Kathryn Cramer Brownell and Bruce J. Schulman, November 22, 2013, www.blogs.reuters.com/