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Many Republican Businessmen Will Support LBJ — On One Condition

May 10, 1964 - A great many businessmen who normally vote Republican are ready to support President Johnson next fall on one condition: that they approve of his running mate.

The Democratic ticket that would draw their vote — and money too — against any presently foreseeable Republican combination would have Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in the second spot. Although McNamara formerly headed the Ford Motor Company, it is not only his business experience that appeals to the executives. They approve of his drive to run the $50 billion defense establishment more economically.

The nomination of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy as Vice President would, on the other hand, end any chance Johnson has of drawing widespread business support, according to many of the corporate executives who met in Hot Springs, Virginia, this weekend as members of the Business Council.

Kennedy is regarded as hostile to business, primarily because of the recent antitrust activities of the Department of Justice.

The business leaders indicated they had not yet made up their minds about other Vice-Presidential possibilities, including Sargent Shriver, director of the Peace Corps and of the President’s anti-poverty program. Some found Shriver “too slick” or condemned him with the faint praise that he was “a good salesman.” But others said they had confidence in his ability based on his success as director of the Peace Corps.

They dislike Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, another Vice-Presidential prospect, but they do not rule out the possibility that they might vote for a Johnson-Humphrey ticket.

The executives say they would favor Johnson’s election because they think he understands business problems, particularly the need for business to earn good profits, and because they like the forcefulness with which he is carrying on as President.

The choice of Johnson’s running mate is important to the executives because they are aware that he has had a serious heart attack. They know from personal experience the strain that heavy executive responsibilities can put on a man’s health.

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