Brokaw: Hasn't Been This Much Excitement for a New Prez Since JFK

November 13th, 2008 2:46 PM

The Obama-lovin' was in full bloom on Wednesday's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" when interim "Meet the Press" host Tom Brokaw actually said, "I don't remember this level of excitement for a new president since 1960 when Jack Kennedy was elected President of the United States."

Now, in fairness, as I was born in 1960, I don't know what kind of excitement existed for JFK after that November's election was concluded.

However, as Ronald Wilson Reagan beat Jimmy Carter by a far greater margin -- popular and electoral votes -- in 1980 than Kennedy beat Richard M. Nixon twenty years prior, this comment by Brokaw seems to be the typical liberal media member's revisionist view of history (video embedded below the fold, relevant section at 24:11, h/t TVNewser):

Okay, let's look at some of the facts as recorded by Wikipedia, shall we?

In the national popular vote, Kennedy beat Nixon by just one tenth of one percentage point (0.1%) - the closest popular-vote margin of the 20th century...Richard Nixon was the first person to lose but carry more than half the states, winning 26 states. The only other person was Gerald R. Ford in 1976, who won in 27 states. [...]

Many Republicans (including Nixon and President Eisenhower) believed that Kennedy had benefited from vote fraud, especially in Texas, of which Lyndon Johnson was Senator, and Illinois, home of Richard Daley's powerful Chicago political machine. Republican Senators such as Everett Dirksen and Barry Goldwater agreed with this assessment; they believed that Nixon actually won the national popular vote. Republicans tried and failed to overturn the results in both these states at the time--as well as in nine other states. These two states are important because if Nixon had carried both, he would have won the election in the electoral college.

Nixon advisors urged Nixon to pursue recounts and challenge the validity of some votes for Kennedy, especially in the pivotal states of Illinois, Missouri and New Jersey, where large majorities in Catholic precincts handed Kennedy the election. Nixon gave a speech three days after the results came in saying he would not contest the election.

As such, Kennedy's victory was not only historically narrow, but many in the nation felt fraud-ridden. By contrast, as recorded by Wikipedia (for consistency), Reagan's victory over Carter was significantly more decisive:

Ronald Reagan with running mate George H.W. Bush beat Carter by almost 10 percentage points in the popular vote. Republicans also gained control of the Senate for the first time in twenty-five years on Reagan's coattails. The electoral college vote was a landslide, with 489 votes (representing 44 states) for Reagan and 49 votes for Carter (representing 6 states and the District of Columbia). NBC News projected Reagan as the winner at 8:15 pm EST (5:15 PST), before voting was finished in the West, based on exit polls. (It was the first time a broadcast network used exit polling to project a winner, and took the other broadcast networks by surprise.) Carter conceded defeat at 9:50 pm EST.[27][28] Carter's loss was the worst defeat for an incumbent President since Herbert Hoover lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 by a margin of 18%. 

With this in mind, it seems absolutely absurd of Brokaw to suggest that there was more excitement for Kennedy eight days after the election than for Reagan who won by such an extraordinary landslide.