As the results came in, Johnson reached out to Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, hoping for bipartisan cooperation—while Dirksen teased the President about the victory of the President’s chief congressional target, Delaware senator John Williams (R).
President Johnson: I want to work awfully close with you, and I think you got a wonderful chance now to make a great contribution to your party, and to the country, too. And I just hope that you take the leadership on it, because we got awful nasty down here. It just got awful nasty.
Everett Dirksen: I understand so.
President Johnson: Billy Sol Estes and they threatened all the Negroes and they passed out this stuff saying, “We’re going to arrest you if you go vote.” It was the worst thing that you’ve ever seen in your lifetime.
We’ve got to keep our underlings, now, from going hog wild and becoming bitter. We’ve got to try to unite the country, and do like we did under Eisenhower, and at least present a united front if we can. Then we’ll slug it out again in ’68.
Well, I’ve only two comments to make. I did get a good exchange. I got a Hollywood actor [George Murphy, who upset Pierre Salinger] for our friend from New York [Kenneth Keating]. [Both laugh heartily.] So . . . that’s on the plus side.
And you almost licked my friend in Delaware.
President Johnson: [feigning surprise] I don’t know. What happened up there—did he have a close race?
Dirksen: He finally came through.
President Johnson: They told me that he just had—that our man . . . I dropped off there on the way to New York, but they told me that the governor just had 31 percent on the polls, and [John] Williams had 60-something. [In fact, just before he arrived in Delaware, LBJ had seen a private poll showing Carvel down by only four points.]
Dirksen: Yeah, but it turned out awfully close.
President Johnson: It did?
President Johnson: Well . . .
Dirksen: I thought [Elbert] Carvel had a very interesting slogan: “What Delaware wants in the Senate is not a policeman but a statesman.” [Both laugh.] Do you think that’s cute?
President Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. John’s been a little rough on us. A little rough on us. And he and his secretary are going to have to quieten down some. They oughtn’t to be so mean to us, now.