In 1960 Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson had believed that his national prominence and power base in the Senate would win him the Democratic nomination for president. After Kennedy won the nomination, he surprised everyone by offering Johnson the vice presidency-and Johnson surprised the political pundits by accepting it. Kennedy hoped that Johnson would balance his "Yankee Roman Catholic" image and give him Texas, a prognosis borne out in one of the closest presidential elections in American history. Kennedy later acknowledged the role reversal, admitting, "I spent years of my life [as a senator] when I could not get consideration for a bill, until I went around and begged Lyndon Johnson to let it go ahead." Kennedy's aides often ridiculed Johnson as "Uncle Cornpone," but the president always spoke of him with respect, placing him in charge of the administration's space exploration initiative.