KC Johnson

LBJ & Eddie Weisl, Sr., 7 Aug. 1964

LBJ’s hope that the election could achieve a realignment by winning over the “frontlash” voters—Republicans disaffected by Barry Goldwater’s stances on civil rights and nuclear issues—was the President’s key political aim in the campaign. He used polls to focus on the concept throughout the summer, as in this  clip with advisor and New York Dem. chairman Eddie Weisl.

President Johnson: Now get this: this is the most important point that I have pointed up.

They talk about all the South quitting me, and they talk about everybody quitting me. Well, I get 78 and he [Goldwater] gets 13.

Eddie Weisl: Where?

President Johnson: In the nation. From the Democrats.

Weisl: Is that the Roper poll?

President Johnson: Yes, sir.

Weisl: You’re still quoting that.

President Johnson: Yes. Coming out Monday, in Life. Now, let me make my point. I don’t make it too . . .

The Democrats in the nation vote 78 percent of them are for Johnson. Now, those that are against him, we call that a backlash. That’s a Polish backlash.

Weisl: Yes.

President Johnson: That’s a Southern backlash. Because of civil rights. Well, it’s 13 percent of them [that] quit me on that account.

Goldwater, among the Republicans, gets 50 percent. And Johnson gets 27. So the backlash to him is 27 percent, more than twice as much as the Democratic backlash. Yet you never read any columns or any editorials or anybody pointing up the Republican backlash.

And I told Roper that yesterday, and told Lou Harris, and they said, “That’s a hell of an interesting point.”

I said, “Well, you just take the parties, now. Here’s the Democrats. You say the Democratic candidate’s going to lose a hell of a lot of Democrats. Well, how many? Well, 13 percent.”

“Well, you’ve got the Republican candidate; how many Republicans [is] he going to lose? Twenty-seven percent—twice as many.”

“So you better say about the Republican backlash—all these extreme statements, and Ku Klux Klan, and all this other stuff.”

That’s pretty interesting, isn’t it?

Weisl: Sure it is.

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