Johnson championed his passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and his campaign advocated a series of anti-poverty programs collectively known as the Great Society. Goldwater espoused a low-tax, small government philosophy, and he opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Democrats successfully portrayed Goldwater as a dangerous extremist, most famously in the "Daisy" television advertisement. The Republican Party was badly divided between its moderate and conservative factions, with Rockefeller and other moderate party leaders refusing to campaign for Goldwater. Johnson led by wide margins in all opinion polls conducted during the campaign.
President and Mrs. Kennedy on the day of his assassination
While on the first campaign swing of his re-election effort, President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Supporters were shocked and saddened by the loss of the charismatic President, while opposition candidates were put in the awkward position of running against the policies of a slain political figure.
During the following period of mourning, Republican leaders called for a political moratorium, so as not to appear disrespectful. As such, little politicking was done by the candidates of either major party until January 1964, when the primary season officially began. At the time, most political pundits saw Kennedy's assassination as leaving the nation politically unsettled.