The Passage of Power (2012)
On 7 May, 1959, LBJ finally accepted an invitation to speak in Pennsylvania at a political rally supporting his bid to be the Democratic nominee for President. LBJ electrified the crowd that numbered in the thousands; many believed that this experience in a Northern state would convince LBJ to formally enter primary elections in Northern & Western states. LBJ, however, returned to his political shell (he was mortified by a fear of failure and humiliation) once again refusing invitations to speak at rallies organized on his behalf, often at the last minute.
LBJ needed delegates for the Democratic Convention, and they were there to be had in the Western states (but not in California; JFK had already secured those delegates), which totaled 172 delegates . . . LBJ was a shoe-in to win at least two Western primaries, and he was favored to win most of the others, but he hadn't formally entered any as of yet. Ted Kennedy was his brother's organizational guru out West, and he told JFK that the West (not California) was "Johnson Country". But LBJ would have needed to actually campaign in the West for those delegates; the decision to not campaign in the Western primaries would be the death-knell for LBJ's presidential aspirations in the Democratic National Convention of 1960.
RFK stayed seated, and glowered, and only kind of shook LBJ's hand, with no eye contact. RFK had come to hate LBJ since Johnson was with FDR when the President announced that he would remove Joseph Kennedy as Ambassador to England. LBJ relished in telling the story of how FDR tricked Joseph Kennedy to come back to the US, give a national radio address as Ambassador, and then forced him to resign . . . RFK was VERY protective of his father.
(Pictured: RFK as the chief counsel during a McClellan Committee hearing on the Teamsters
LBJ continued to force RFK to shake his hand every day for awhile; it was truly "Hate at First Sight" for both of them. LBJ took every chance he could to rub in his dislike for RFK in front of others, such as calling him "Sonny Boy". LBJ disliked RFK, but he didn't take him seriously, since RFK was a staffer, not a Senator. RFK on the other hand, hated LBJ, and took him very seriously indeed, seeing him as a threat to JFK's path to the Presidency.
In 1959, RFK resigned as chief counsel from the McClellan Committee (investigating shenanigans with organized labor, including Jimmy Hoffa), and campaigned for JFK full-time. When LBJ finally decided to start campaign organizations in Western states, his people found that JFK had set up organizations months beforehand, and also had a tremendous head start in gathering committed delegates. LBJ fear-of-trying had held him back, and by early-1960, it was far too late to catch up to the JFK primary machine.
A young representative from Massachusetts named Tip O'Neill (pictured: he would become Speaker of the House) told LBJ that JFK would win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot, and there was nothing that LBJ could do to alter that outcome. LBJ was unwilling to concede even the most remote possibility that JFK could (or had) outmaneuvered him before the Democratic National Convention.
(Pictured: JFK campaigning in West Virginia)
After West Virginia, when it was far too late, LBJ showed how much he wanted to become President. With only two months before the convention in Los Angeles, he made a desperate lunge for the prize. LBJ worked hard for delegates in Indiana, then finally made his long-delayed trip to campaign in the West. Despite his herculean efforts in the 11th Hour, LBJ was not able to come close to JFK's impressive total of committed convention delegates.
Pennsylvania was the final battleground between LBJ and JFK; if LBJ could deny JFK the state's 81 delegates, then he would deny JFK a victory on the first ballot, and his "Back Room" scenario would become a reality.
Adlai Stevenson was non-committal when Lawrence asked him to formally declare his candidacy, which meant that Lawrence did not have a candidate to champion during his state's caucus. JFK left Pennsylvania with 64 committed delegates, Stevenson garnered 7.5, while LBJ only secured 4; those results meant that it was conceivable that JFK could win the Democratic nomination on the first ballot. (Pictured: JFK, Stevenson, and LBJ at the Beverly Hilton during the Democratic National Convention in LA)
In the end, it all came down to Wyoming's 15 delegates, and JFK needed them all to win on the first ballot, and avoid any behind-the-scenes political chicanery. JFK and RFK negotiated with the Wyoming delegation, and secured the 5 uncommitted delegates to their total, as well as the Democratic nomination for President on the first ballot. LBJ could have had the Wyoming delegates, and the other Western states in his delegate total, but he waited far too long to actively campaign, and JFK and RFK took full advantage. The final tally of delegates at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles: JFK 806, LBJ 409 (Senators Hubert Humphrey and Stuart Symington totaled 306 between the two).
(Pictured: Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, LBJ's #1 supporter, grieves with LBJ when it was confirmed that JFK won on the first ballot)
Below: A portion of the LBJ/JFK debate in front of the Texas delegation in LA