In 1960 Republican Vice President Richard Nixon lost the presidency to John F. Kennedy. It was the closest election in American history. Kennedy won the popular vote by one tenth of one percentage point. (49.7% to 49.6%).
Those numbers suggested a Republican reversal was attainable in 1964, but by the next presidential primary, Kennedy was dead and Nixon was out of politics. Still party loyalists and idealists should have made 1964 just as competitive, right? Wrong, it was the opposite of 1960, there was a proverbial parting of the waters and the Democratic Party secured the largest landslide victory in American history.
What happened to the Republicans?
In 1960 Nixon, a moderate, was able to unite the factions of the party, but in 1964 the Goldwater/conservative wing and liberal/Rockefeller wing were engaged in an ideological struggle over party direction. Goldwater won the nomination after a remarriage/adultery scandal alienated Rockefeller from social conservatives and women voters, but Goldwater couldn’t unify the party because of his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.