My earliest presidential election memory

I’ve always found that the most interesting presidential elections are the ones in which there is no incumbent running.

My earliest election memory goes back to 1960, when John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon squared off. I was eight years old at the time and I remember my father was active locally in the Nixon campaign. I believe he served as a precinct captain or in some similar capacity. I remember having Nixon buttons and bumper stickers all over the house! [I wish I had some of them now!]

The 1960 election was certainly one of the closest elections with Kennedy pulling a narrow victory late in the evening. I stayed up late listening to the election returns on the radio (Fox News was not around!) and I had to go to bed before anything was official. I remember my father waking me up the next morning for school and I asked him who won. I recall how miserable he sounded when he told me that Nixon had lost! Of course, I felt bad if—for no other reason—because my parents supported the losing candidate.

Since then, the 1968, 1988, and 2000 elections have not included an incumbent. [The 1980 election felt like the incumbent wasn’t running, but only because President Carter chose to not actively campaign against Reagan.] We know how close the 2000 election was and it’s hard to know exactly how the 2008 election will turn out.

My dad also worked on the 1962 congressional campaign for Donald Rumsfeld. He actually lived in my neighborhood in Northbrook, Illinois for a little while and I believe my dad got to know him from the neighborhood. Rumsfeld won that race and served in Congress until 1969. A couple of years ago, I was driving my mother through the neighborhood and she showed me where Rumsfeld used to live. This was right about the time he stepped down under heavy criticism as defense secretary. I wonder if the current owners know of the house’s history.

In a few more weeks it will all be over and we’ll see a new chief executive in the White House.


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