Video: Kennedy mystique

updated 7/20/2004 8:08:30 PM ET 2004-07-21T00:08:30

The Kennedy mystique has possessed every Democratic conventions since JFK lost his fight for vice president in in 1956.

Democratic Nominee Adlai Stevenson shook up the 1956 convention with an intriguing political move: he left the selection of his running mate entirely up to the delegates. Thirteen candidates vied for the job, but the race soon came down to a pair of Senators: Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, and a thirty-nine year-old New Englander named John F. Kennedy.

Kefauver won the Vice Presidential nomination in a nail-biter vote, but Kennedy, gracious in defeat, made a lasting impression.

"I had never heard of Kennedy before 1956 and I remember we had just gotten our TV set," says Chris Matthews. "I sort of rooted for Kefauver because I had heard of him. And I thought 'Who is this guy, Kennedy?' He showed up with Jackie to concede defeat and I thought, 'These people don't look like politicians!' They looked great."

Tom Brokaw remembers covering the conventions and the Kennedys' presence throughout the years: "When Bobby Kennedy appeared in Atlantic city after his brother had been killed, it was 12 minutes of a standing ovation for him. Those were electrifying moments. We have too few of those now in conventions, in which people get genuinely excited about what’s going on and you have that feeling they are connected to their political process as they once were.”

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