JFK parries anti-Catholic attacks to win West Virginia’s 1960 Democratic primary.

When JFK Took on His Anti-Catholic Critics

When JFK Took on His Anti-Catholic Critics

Bite-sized stories from presidential campaign history.
Nov. 11 2015 9:27 AM

JFK in West Virginia

In 1960, Kennedy demonstrated that in primary season, what doesn’t kill candidates makes them stronger.


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Everything was going so well for JFK in his first White House bid … until religion became an issue. Instead of running from his critics, Kennedy took them on full bore, proving in the process how primary battles can make candidates stronger. In this episode of Whistlestop, John Dickerson tells the story of the 1960 West Virginia Democratic primary, in which Kennedy did an end run around party bosses and took his message straight to the voters.

Whistlestop is Slate’s podcast about presidential campaign history. Hosted by our political correspondent and Political Gabfest panelist John Dickerson, each installment revisits a memorable (or even a forgotten) moment from America’s quadrennial carnival.

Whistlestop is sponsored by The Great Courses, now offering the lecture series The Modern Political Tradition: Hobbes to Habermas. Order from eight of their best-selling courses at up to 80 percent of the original price by visiting thegreatcourses.com/whistlestop.

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Podcast production by Tony Field.

John Dickerson is a co-anchor of CBS This Morning, co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest, host of the Whistlestop podcast, and author of Whistlestop and On Her Trail.