Wednesday, November 9, 1966 - 1:01pm - 1:15pm
Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey
LBJ Ranch

White House Operator: He'll be with you in just a moment, sir. 

Hubert Humphrey: OK.

Telephone operators heard speaking indistinctly in the background.

President Johnson: Hello?

Humphrey: Hello, Mr. President.

President Johnson: Hi, Hubert. How are you?

Humphrey: Well, I'm--we're bruised and battered, but not down.

President Johnson: Well . . .

Humphrey: We've had a rather close one up here [in Minnesota] on this governorship, but Karl [Rolvaag] has lost, our man. It looked like he was going to win up here this week. [Walter] Mondale, of course, won. Three of our congressmen, Democratic congressmen, are in solid. And the other one looks as if, Alec Olson, looks as if he might be out according to the last tabulation, but all the votes of that district are not in. But, I don't understand it.

President Johnson: Well, I think that it's not as good as we'd like it but it's something we've got to reconcile ourselves to, and I think it's pretty easily understood and rather easily explained. I asked Boyd to come in here this morning, what he thought about the election. He said, well he'd sure hate to see a Republicans sweep the House. And I said, "Did the Republicans carry the House?" And he said, "Yes." He'd listened to General [David] Sarnoff and Bill [unclear]1 all night. And he thought that the Republicans had carried the House. And I said, "Well, looks to me like it's going to be about 250 for the Democrats and 185 . . . and if you have an election there are 435 votes and you carried it by 65--

Humphrey: That's right.

Johnson: --you wouldn't say that you'd lost. But, if they say it enough like Hitler, why, then everybody thinks it's a great--it's awfully terrible. "Now," I said, "that's what you had." I had an election one time, it had two million and I won by 87 and I thought it was awful good. [Humphrey laughs] And I won the Senate one time by one vote in 1954. I had the best organization and did more voting together than . . . we even took on Joe McCarthy and didn't lose a single vote. Now, when I had a majority of one now, we let a lot of these boys off the hook in the House.

Humphrey: That's right.

Johnson: One way of voting. And they all go on their tours. And about 30, 40 of them are absent the whole time.

Humphrey: Yup.

President Johnson: And so we can expect it then I think when [Robert Kennedy] Bobby and Abe [Abraham] Ribicoff and some of our fool liberals--

Humphrey: Yeah, they were [unclear]--

President Johnson: --start out talking about how many billion it's going to take, and what we ought to have 6[00], 700 billion and we got a few Cavanaughs in Michigan and a few things like that, and then Martin Luther King's in Chicago. I don't think you can expect much more and I think this is just--our friend Walter [Mondale], who's a great fellow, I understand he's playing all ends against the middle these days. 

Humphrey: Sure is--

President Johnson: He's just drafted a big bill for Bobby on old age assistance--

Humphrey: Yeah.

President Johnson: --and stuff like that. But when I went out there to speak, why, they didn't have a corporal's guard and then they acted an ass when [George] Romney came in to try to welcome the President, they booed him off the platform.

Humphrey: Yeah, I--

President Johnson: And when [Robert P.] Griffin came up they booed him. And people just won't tolerate this--that low life stuff like the negroes and the Labor Union's been doing. And they're going to get back and that's what they do. And I think--I don't think that 14B helped us much, and I don't think that these extreme liberal things helped us much, and I think the folks will react. Now, I think --

Humphrey: I think so, and I'll tell you what I've said here, Mr. President. I haven't made any statement at all. I didn't want to say anything, and I'm not going to until we know what you're saying and what others. But, I've said to one of my personal friends here, I said, "Look, we've got about the same vote now in the 90th Congress that we had in the 88th.2 We're not far off. They're about the same number of Democrats in the House of Representatives, and that was considered to be a pretty good Democratic Congress. And we've got the same numbers--we got about two more senators than we had in the 88th. So I think if we just keep in mind that the last Congress under [John] Kennedy, in the 88th Congress, had about the same number of Democrats in it that we have now. And the last--Senate had--we actually have a couple more now than we had then."3

President Johnson: Well--

Humphrey: Something to keep in mind. And I can't help but feel that we ought not to cry about it. I think we've got a pretty good working majority, and it'll be--it'll depend on how much discipline these fellas have and self restraint to get us through.

President Johnson: Yeah, that's it. I was rather hopeful that we'd do something with Wyoming and Idaho.

Humphrey: So was I. And every indication, Mr. President, in Idaho, every single indication proved that we could do it. The polls out here [in Minnesota], for example, in this state, and not just the Minneapolis polls but the Harris poll, all of them were way off. We don't know what in the devil caused that to be the case. However, again, I'd say we got [John] Blatnik, we've got [Joseph] Karth, and we've got [Donald M.] Fraser, and we have Mondale and we have two of our state officers out here. And the lieutenant governorship race out in Minnesota is still nip and tuck.

President Johnson: What happened to your governor's race?

Humphrey: The governor's race, [Karl] Rolvaag will lose by about 45-50,000 in the state.4

President Johnson: Was that that insurance stuff?

Humphrey: Yep. He just--he was as non-guilty as a man could be. But this was the problem that we had that he just didn't have the zip and the go to do something about it. And the paper out here just really went wild on him. But we looked--the last poll before this election showed us having a four percent margin. So we have to just keep that in mind that sometimes these measurements are not as accurate as they might be. And yet, there are a couple other polls on fellows that showed our people down, they came through. I don't feel too badly. I figure that we did what we had to do, and I'm pleased that some of the places that we went we were at least somewhat helpful. [Fran E.] Evans came through out in Colorado, one of our fine young congressmen that stood with you all the way right up and down the line, never batted an eyelash. And we had some others that--on the Eastern seaboard, of course, there were some of them that came through real good. And--

President Johnson: Yes, there were more of them elected than were defeated in the 48. There's 26 elected and 22 defeated.

Humphrey: That's right. That's right. And many of those from historically Republican areas.

President Johnson: Like Joe Resnick [of New York].

Humphrey: That's right. And you got [Peter] Kyros up there, this young Greek boy up in Maine. I remember I went up there and walked around up there with him a day. Everybody said he couldn't win. Nobody thought he could win. [Kenneth] Curtis was elected governor. We sent him up a little help from some friends out here. He appreciated it very much. . . . Well, I [unclear]--

President Johnson: I think the biggest defeat was the governors.

Humphrey: Yeah, that's right.

President Johnson: Like losing Alaska and losing New Mexico and losing Arizona and . . . 

Humphrey: That's right. Well, Mr. President, remember [Franklin] Roosevelt, in 1936 and then '38. There's always a kind of an equalizer. I think people, it's a funny thing, I think people sort of feel "Well, let's see, but we maybe ought to kind of balance it off again."

President Johnson: I got the Christian Science Monitor article yesterday when I voted, and they asked me what I thought, and I said I thought the Senate would be about a standoff. Our people had estimated we'd lose one in the Senate. We didn't think we'd lose Tennessee, and we didn't think we'd lose Massachusetts. 

Humphrey: No.

President Johnson: But, I said I think it'd be a standoff there. And I don't think it'll be far--the loss will be much more than the average. And then fortunately, I got that on the record yesterday morning, and if we come around to 41, looks like we may lose 46 now. 

Humphrey: Uh-huh.

President Johnson: But the average, 1890 is 41 seats. There's a good article in the Christian Science Monitor.

Humphrey: Uh-huh.

President Johnson: That's . . . wait a minute, they let me have it for an hour and then they like to file it and keep it.

Humphrey: [chuckles] Yeah.

President Johnson: I'll just keep it here while I'm here. It's June 29, 1966, and the heading of it is "1966 the presidential off-year, history favors the party out of power. This year issues like Vietnam, Civil Rights, ganged up. Here's a look at key congressional and gubernatorial races that are causing the Democrats concern. Today's page: Open special coverage of the November election." And it says the average off-year scoreboard is 41. That's the average gain. Since 1890. Now, let's see, what does it say about the governors? Doesn't say [unclear, while paraphrasing] difficult to single out a handful of Senate contests [unclear]. No, let's see.

Now, I don't rather think--I don't think we're going to suffer much with the [unclear] guy or [Charles H.] Percy or the Massachusetts boy from the standpoint of our domestic program.

Humphrey: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: I believe they're going to be pretty progressive Republicans. 

Humphrey: Mm-hmm. I think so, too. When you pick up someone like [Edward W.] Brooke or Percy, these fellas, we're maybe going to get a little more, a few more votes out of them we than we have with some others. So, not too bad.

Well, Mr. President, I'm going back to Washington tonight, going to be there, and I just wanted to talk to you. What's your plans now?

President Johnson: I don't know. I'm going to be operated on the early part of the week, but I don't know where, whether it'll be here or there. I'm trying to talk to--there's--I've six, seven doctors involved. You get this article out of the Christian Science Monitor. It's very interesting what they were saying then. "Republicans are most sanguine. Senate leader [Everett] Dirksen says the possibility is a gain of 70. A GOP organization leader puts it at 60 with the possibility of going as high as 80. Locales of fierce fighting for Democratic freshman seats include . . . "

Humphrey: Uh-huh.

President Johnson: And then he goes ahead. 

Humphrey: Uh-huh. Very interesting.

President Johnson: The average gain for the House in off-presidential election is 41, beginning the off-year election under President [Benjamin] Harrison in 1890. One Democratic leader says anything less than a gain of 20 would be equivalent to a landslide. He sees such a holding action as a possibility. [Unclear] 48 districts, the key races--well, of 48 we won 26 of them.

Humphrey: Mm-hmm.

President Johnson: OK, much obliged for calling.

Humphrey: Well, thank you, Mr. President. Be of good cheer.

President Johnson: I'll be in touch with you. Where are you going to be there, a day or two?

Humphrey: No, I'm going to go back to Washington tomorrow. And I just got--we've made a little move there and I want to get back and kind of get settled in. And then I'll be around there until the next couple of weeks. 

President Johnson: OK.

Humphrey: You bet. Bye-bye. 

  • 1. Johnson may have been referring to Chairman of the Democratic National Committee John Bailey.
  • 2. The House of Representatives of the 88th Congress, which sat from January 1963 through January 1965, consisted of 258 Democrats and 177 Republicans. The 90th Congress consisted of 247 Democrats and 187 Republicans, with one vacant seat.
  • 3. The Senate of the 88th Congress consisted of 66 Democrats and 34 Republicans. The 90th Congress consisted of 64 Democrats and 36 Republicans.
  • 4. Rolvaag ended up losing to Republican Harold LeVander by about 73,000 votes.

Original tape courtesy of LBJ Library. This transcript is a working draft. Please let us know if you find important errors.