Sabatos Crystal Ball

1964 Presidential Election

UVA Center for Politics January 1st, 2008


After his smooth transition to the oval office, it was understood that the Democratic nomination would be handed to President Johnson. The only objection to be heard was Gov. Wallace of Alabama whose “segregationist campaign took advantage of a backlash against the civil rights movement.” He did run against Johnson in three primaries, but after defeat and rumor about running as a third party, decided to drop out of the race.

The Republicans juggled between two nominees: Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona and Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York. Since the nomination process was in the midst of change, the system allowed candidates to pick and choose the primaries to best correspond with their political strategy. Goldwater won strong support in the south and Midwest, but his definitive victory over Rockefeller was his triumph in California.

Goldwater was a staunch conservative; Johnson a moderate liberal. Goldwater campaigned vigorously against remaining New Deal policies and proposed a stronger military. The “choice not an echo” that Goldwater offered was indeed a moral crusade. Not all Republicans were as conservative or as right as Goldwater exhibited, thus many party leaders were divided to the Democrats delight.

Johnson’s campaign preyed upon Goldwater’s blunders, especially criticizing his nonchalance of nuclear weapons. Following his political hero FDR, Johnson proposed a new slogan for America, his “Great Society.” In this plan, he proposed an activist approach to ensure a variety of new social programs. Goldwater’s approach was highly antagonistic and Johnson benefited from this, swaying unsure Republican votes.

His landslide of the popular vote is the largest in United States history. He won 61 percent to Goldwater’s 38 percent.