But his candidacy was far from a sure bet. Few would have predicted at the time the lasting impact his campaign would have on every election to follow.
Kennedy made the most of his youth and novelty, says historian Robert Dallek, author of several books about JFK.
"In 1960, when he ran for the presidency, first of all, if he won, he was going to be the youngest man ever elected to the White House," Dallek says. "Secondly, he was going to be the first Catholic, so there was something fresh and new, and this is what he spun out in the campaign.