Nixon’s Overachievement and Injury


This image shows Lyndon Johnson and Senator Everett Dirksen visiting Nixon at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center following his knee injury.

One of Nixon’s main problems is that he tried to do too much in too limited amount of time. When he received the Republican nomination, he made it clear that he intended to campaign in every single state, as he “needed every single Western, Southern, and Midwestern state we could possibly win” since Kennedy would assuredly win the states in the industrial Northeast (Donaldson, 102).  He spent a lot of time in states that were going to vote either Republican or Democratic regardless of his visit, as well as tiny states whose number of electoral votes was not that large, like Hawaii. Instead, he should have spent most of his time in important swing states that could have been swayed one way or another; if he had devoted more attention to them instead of trying to go to every state, he may have won the election.

The result of this constant travel was sleep deprivation, stress, and exhaustion, as he traveled thousands of miles and delivered over seven speeches a day.  Eventually, this overexertion would take its tole when he hit his knee on his car door and was sent to Walter Reed Hospital, where he suffered for two weeks (Matthews, 148).  He was not able to travel and campaign, which provided a significant advantage to Kennedy during that time. After all that, Nixon should have given up on his promise to visit each of the 50 states and just focused on the important ones, especially as Kennedy had shortened the gap between them in the preceding weeks.  However, he intended to keep his promise, and continued to push himself so hard that he was never fully functioning at his very best.


This image shows New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller visiting Nixon at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Another of Nixon’s issues is that even after his injury, he refused to delegate. With so much paperwork placed before him and numerous decisions to make, he still insisted it was “his clear responsibility to review each answer in detail because they asked for my opinion, not that of my staff… I had to work literally night and day to catch up on this backlog and still keep current on the very important speeches that had to be made daily” (Donaldson, 109).  The result was that Nixon quickly fell victim to the flu and fever, and had to stock up on medicine just to keep going.

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