The American people fell for it and Goldwater lost in a landslide.
A classic campaign ad (which was completely obliterated by one containing a fistful of lies and film of an A-bomb going off)
If I remember correctly the genesis of that story line occurred when a reporter asked Goldwater what he would do to solve the Vietnam issue. Goldwater responded by saying he would seek an immediate military solution by sending the B-52s to bomb North Vietnam. Senator Goldwater was also a general officer in the USAFRes at that time. I am not sure if his combat strikes occurred after the election or before.
At any rate the media ran with the story and the 1964 elections are history.
BTW - there is one more piece of history that the democrats and the media don't talk about for a variety of reasons. A little over 8 years later, December 1972 to be exact, the US government, under President Nixon, took the B-52s north and bombed North Vietnam back into the stoneage which is what it is reported what Goldwater wanted to do. So if you ever get THE WALL look at all the names that appear between December 1965 and December 1972 and remember who put them there. BTW - the Vietnamese losses were many many times what we lost.
Johnson and the media succeeded in depicting Goldwater as a dangerous reactionary radical who would plunge us into WWIII. Well we all know what happened. The Dems plunged the country into Vietnam, and Johnson initiated The Great Society which ended up destroying the black family and elevating the crime rate to new highs. But Goldwater was the first truly conservative Republican candidate, and his campaign inspired millions of young conservatives. The Republicans are now far more conservative than they were in 1964 thanks in large part to Goldwater's example. Fortunately, Rockefeller Republicans are virtually a thing of the past. Even the Mittster, as bland as he is, is not a Rockefeller Pubbie. He can't be, or he would never have gotten nominated.
Here’s the mega-smear TV ad that killed Goldwater’s campaign ...
I spent every spare minute I had volunteering in Barry’s Tucson headquarters. CBS news came on at 5:30 pm there and walter crankcase announced Johnson had won while I was still making phone calls trying to get people to go vote.