December 10, 1960 [Primary]

Now that Kennedy has been elected and we've dodged the Tricky Dick bullet, I will allow myself to relax for a moment. I just want us to be a little happier, a little more hopeful. I will let Kennedy help me out here--but he will have to turn on all his charm, and keep it burning--when he was campaigning, my mother went to the Acme parking lot to see him; she shook his hand and is still in a swoon. Kennedy will need that, and much more.

We get a glimpse of Kennedy's more-than-Hollywood glamour in Primary, as the camera follows him and Humphrey through Wisconsin. The hand-held cameras, the spotty sound, the alternating glare and gloom of the images--it’s all immediate, a long news shot on the front, as political salvos--often with a grin or in a whisper--explode in the frame--and everyone survives, keeps pressing the flesh, beaming.

Well, Humphrey doesn’t survive, of course. But the film doesn’t make that as clear as it does the calculations necessary to win a truly public campaign, on the verge of coast-to-coast, start-to-finish coverage, no matter how much the camera jerks and veers or the sound gets garbled. We Are There, and we’re staying that way. The President will have to manage that scrutiny--along with the usual everyday stuff: civil rights, the growing economy, Latin America, the Soviet Union. Over the next four years Kennedy more than once will wish he were back in Wisconsin, speeding past the bare fields and trees along those hilly roads to outflank the slower man.


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