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U.S. presidential election, 1964

Presidential CandidateElectoral Vote Popular Vote Pct Party Running Mate
(Electoral Votes)
Lyndon Johnson of Texas (W) 486 42,825,463 61.0% Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota (486)
Barry Goldwater of Arizona 52 27,146,969 38.4% Republican William E. Miller of New York (52)
Other 0 374,043 0.6%
Total 538 70,640,289 100.0%
Other elections: 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976
Source: U.S. Office of the Federal Register

The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 created a unique climate for the 1964 elections. Voters were saddened by the loss of the charismatic president, and opposition candidates were put in a very awkward situation.

The new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, capitalized on this situation, using a combination of the national mood and his own political savvy to push Kennedy's agenda; most notably, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By the time of the nomination, Johnson was unassailable, and easily won the Democratic nomination.

The Republican Party had a more difficult time. Richard Nixon, who had been beaten by Kennedy in a close election, and subsequently lost an election for Governor of California, decided not to run. That left Nelson Rockefeller, the Governor of New York, to run against Barry Goldwater, a Senator from Arizona. It was a stark choice. Rockefeller epitomized the liberal wing of the Republican party, while Goldwater epitomized the conservative wing of the party. Republican voters in New Hampshire disliked both candidates, and gave Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr, Nixon's running mate in 1960 and a former Massachusetts senator, a write-in victory in the primary.

Despite this defeat, Goldwater won the nomination. In accepting his nomination, he uttered his most famous phrase: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Johnson positioned himself as a moderate, contrasting himself to Goldwater, who the campaign characterized as an extremist. Most famously, the Johnson campaign issued a commercial dubbed the "Daisy Girl" ad, which featured a little girl picking petals from a daisy in a field, counting the petals, which then segues into a launch countdown and a nuclear explosion. The ads were in response to Goldwater's advocacy of "tactical" nuclear weapons use in Vietnam.

The election was held on November 3, 1964. Johnson crushed Goldwater in the general election, winning 64.9 percent of the popular vote, the largest percentage ever recorded (i.e. since the 1824 election).

See also: President of the United States, U.S. presidential election, 1964, History of the United States (1964-1980)