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The Senate Race That Couldn’t Be Lost—And Was A lesson in political humility. Read more:
Politico ^ | 7-29-14 | Larry Sabato

Posted on 07/29/2014 4:07:23 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic

If there is one nightmare common to all U.S. senators, it’s the possibility of an unexpected upset by an underdog challenger come Election Day. Not only do they lose their seat, but the shock of defeat becomes one of the most notable parts of their biography. This November, no one wants to be the Senate’s Eric Cantor.

For my money, one of the most jaw-dropping Senate results in modern history occurred exactly 50 years ago. It’s barely remembered even by the political community, but it shouldn’t be forgotten. This old race teaches enduring lessons about politics, and in 2014 we’ll see some contenders come up short because they ignore those lessons. An “inevitable” victor can lose anytime due to overconfidence, over-reliance on a prevailing national trend, overestimation of their own skills plus underestimation of the opponent, and an insufficient regard for public opinion.

The 1964 election was destined to be a Democratic landslide. Riding a honeymoon wave after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson was practically handed a full term after the Republicans nominated conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona. Perceived at the time as an extremist, Goldwater sealed his fate with saber-rattling that unnerved the public during the tense Cold War (remember the infamous “Daisy” ad?). His vote against the Civil Rights Act just a few months before the election also energized and unified African Americans to back the Democratic ticket.

Sensing a tidal wave, Democrats almost everywhere grabbed for LBJ’s coattails. That included Pierre Salinger of California, who won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in June and then was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Pat Brown (D), Jerry’s father, after the death of Sen. Clair Engle, the incumbent Democrat. Engle, who was ill for some time with a brain tumor, had actually tried to run for reelection by having his consultants splice together a short candidacy announcement that projected a picture of health. But actually, Engle was in such bad shape that it took many takes to get enough clean material for the film. The jig was up when Engle’s condition deteriorated rapidly in the spring, though he deserves credit for making it to the Senate floor to end the filibuster on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Too weak to speak, Engle gamely pointed to his eye when the clerk called his name—enough evidence of intent to be counted as an “aye.”

Salinger, a native Californian, had been JFK’s high-profile White House press secretary, so he already had substantial positive name identification and the benefit of close association with the sainted assassinated president. If that weren’t enough, the Republicans chose as their candidate George Murphy, a B-movie song-and-dance man from Hollywood who had never held public office. Murphy was also a Goldwater backer, though he avoided appearing publicly with his party’s presidential nominee.


LBJ's Hollywood Mistress

George Murphy was the first major GOP success story out of Hollywood, but a Democrat, actress Helen Gahagan Douglas, actually blazed the trail. An accomplished, strikingly beautiful Broadway and film star, and the wife of actor Melvyn Douglas, she was elected to the U.S. House from a Los Angeles district in 1944. Her House career lasted six years, until she was defeated for the U.S. Senate in 1950 by a young congressman named Richard Nixon. Although 1950 was a bad year for Democrats generally—it was President Truman’s sixth-year itch—Nixon added to his eventual 59 percent landslide margin by calling Douglas “the pink lady” and printing his attacks on pink-colored paper, clearly implying Douglas was sympathetic to communism. In return, Douglas saddled Nixon with a nickname that stuck the rest of his life, “Tricky Dick.”

Incidentally, Helen Douglas was perhaps Lyndon Johnson’s most durable mistress. During Johnson’s congressional career, they were a couple—and not terribly discreet about it, walking to Capitol Hill many mornings while holding hands. The extramarital relationship continued at least into LBJ’s vice presidency, according to Robert Caro’s The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate. Despite widespread insider knowledge about the famous twosome’s love affair, nothing ever appeared in print during their lifetimes. This was typical of the press’s hands-off, non-coverage of politicians’ private lives at the time.

It seemed like a set-up. LBJ was running on JFK’s legacy and headed for an overwhelming victory in the Golden State. Salinger was the incumbent senator, and had claim to both Johnson’s and Kennedy’s mantles. Given these major Democratic advantages, most political observers in and out of the state expected Salinger to keep his appointed Senate seat. Even when an end-of-campaign Mervin Field poll showed the candidates tied (after Salinger had led by 16 percent in May and 12 percent in September), the cognoscenti figured President Johnson was good for a few extra points on Nov. 3. Governor Brown flatly predicted Salinger would triumph by at least half a million votes.

Yet Salinger lost, and it wasn’t especially close. Murphy won 3,626,355 votes (51.5 percent) to Salinger’s 3,411,912 (48.5 percent). Keep in mind that Murphy secured a 214,000-vote edge while President Johnson was amassing a California plurality of 1,292,769 votes—a remarkable 59.1 percent. Across the country, LBJ helped Democrats sweep, and in the Senate, Democrats secured a 68-seat supermajority—a two-thirds margin that neither party has been able to secure since that time. By the way, the California seat was the only one in the nation that switched from Democratic to Republican hands in 1964. This was Salinger’s lasting, unhappy electoral distinction.

How did Salinger let victory escape? First, he had been away from California for the better part of seven years, and had only returned on March 20, 1964—the last day to file for the Senate primary. Salinger wasn’t even able to cast a ballot for himself since he didn’t meet the one-year residency requirement for voter registration. Naturally, the Murphy campaign made the most of this, even after the California Supreme Court ruled that Salinger was eligible to run and serve, and the U.S. Senate voted 59-29 to seat Salinger. Murphy threatened to challenge Salinger’s appointment before the U.S. Supreme Court, but the challenge never went forward, in part because the Senate is the judge of its own membership and also because the U.S. Constitution requires only that a senator be an inhabitant of the state, not necessarily a registered voter, at the time of election.

TOPICS: Chit/Chat; Education; History; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: california; douglas; lbj; murphy; salinger; senate

1 posted on 07/29/2014 4:07:23 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic

I had forgotten all of this, although I was a Californian at the time. And I never knew the bit about LBJ and Helen Gahagen Douglas.

2 posted on 07/29/2014 4:09:34 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic

Yes, Democrats and media will always keep the hush-hush about Democrat politicians. FDR, JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton (even now), John Edwards and so on.

3 posted on 07/29/2014 4:16:11 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: Gaffer

What do you suppose they are hiding about BHO?

4 posted on 07/29/2014 4:32:27 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic

From what I’ve seen in various articles and threads here, the number one thing that perks their ears is the “BHO is a Muslim” meme. There was some Democrat operative out there tracking down all the bloggers that perpetuated it. That article even named two FReepers here. So if they admit this, then there is probably a lot more covert invasion of privacy going on with respect to that.

Given this, and his own books, his nearly non-existent attendance at Christian Churches since election, and his insistence on falsely integrating a great Muslim influence on the history and fabric of this country, I’d say he is a Muslim.

That’s just one, but I think it ties into the formulation and action of his whole Presidency, myself.

5 posted on 07/29/2014 4:40:11 AM PDT by Gaffer
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To: afraidfortherepublic
On the flip side, Mississippi may well fall to the Dims due to the Cochran betrayal debacle. To vote for Thad to to be had. A vote for Cochran is submission to, and approval of, betrayal of the worst kind.

I've been getting emails from the RNC asking if I have abandoned the Republican Party - my responses are that the Republican Party has abandoned all that is good and decent about Conservatism and that it no longer caters to the "constituents" it claims to support, while poking us in the eye at every opportunity.

6 posted on 07/29/2014 4:41:42 AM PDT by trebb (Where in the the hell has my country gone?)
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To: afraidfortherepublic

I was a teenager in 1964. I remember the nature of the country then and I wonder how many votes a name like “Pierre” cost him. He should have called himself “Pete”.

7 posted on 07/29/2014 4:45:21 AM PDT by muir_redwoods (When I first read it, " Atlas Shrugged" was fiction)
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To: muir_redwoods

I was a young mom, and I don’t even remember that Salinger was ever Senator. I probably voted for him because I voted Dem until 1966, but I don’t remember any of it. I remember a lot from those years (I lived in Berkeley) but I don’t remember any of that. I was focused on my kids’ education.

8 posted on 07/29/2014 4:51:30 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic
Lefty Larry Saboto is a Paid Dem party operative and Bold faced Liar.

This Dem con artist has been caught red handed secretly working for VA Dem candidates and then hits all the Media outlets trashing acting
Poll expert which pure crap.

In 2004, Left wing Larry shot off his big lying trap and predicted GW Bush
could not be reelected based on his expert polling.
This DNC clown is a Fraud.

9 posted on 07/29/2014 5:04:16 AM PDT by ncalburt ( Amnesty-media out in full force)
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