KC Johnson

LBJ & Kenny O’Donnell, 21 Aug. 1964

As August proceeded, Johnson increasingly turned his attention to Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield as a possible running mate. This clip with aide Ken O’Donnell explained why:

President Johnson: How much stronger are you for Hubert [Humphrey] than you would be for Mansfield to be the vice-presidential nominee and Hubert to be the [Senate majority] leader? And would you want to evaluate that for me over the phone, just while we’re philosophizing a little bit?

I can see the relative merits of each of them.

Ken O’Donnell: I’d like to think about it.

President Johnson: I think that Hubert would stir up the liberals more and get more applause from the Negroes, and get a little bigger hand from the liberal columnists, the New Deal and maybe a good deal of the New Frontier than Mansfield. On the other hand, Mansfield has the respect and no one really hates him.

Of all the groups, he would, in the Rocky Mountain states, that area out there, he might give us a little lift, that Hubert wouldn’t give. I rather think he would, because he’s respected. I really believe Hubert would make the best leader that we could possibly have. I have not the slightest doubt of knowing which is most important to me.

I believe that overall you’d get more campaigning out of Mansfield being on the ticket with Humphrey [as] leader, than you would with Humphrey to be on the ticket and Mansfield leader, because I don’t think Mansfield’s going to campaign much if he’s leader. He’s just going to go back out to Montana and campaign for himself.

[Break.]

President Johnson: He might make a pretty good television appearance. He makes a pretty good speech. He’s a pretty judicious fellow. He’s a pretty careful fellow. He’s pretty strong on peace—that’s showing up in all of our polls.

By contrast, he doesn’t have the ADA handicap in the Rocky Mountain states when you talk to fellows like Palmer Hoyt of the Denver Post, and others, although they’re for Hubert.

In the end, Mansfield decided he didn’t want the job, and withdrew from consideration—in effect making Johnson’s choice for him.

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