United States presidential election, 1948

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United States presidential election, 1948
United States
1944 ←
November 2, 1948
→ 1952

All 531 electoral votes of the Electoral College
266 electoral votes needed to win
 Harry-truman.jpgThomasDewey.pngStromThurmond.png
NomineeHarry S. TrumanThomas E. DeweyStrom Thurmond
PartyDemocraticRepublicanDixiecrat
Home stateMissouriNew YorkSouth Carolina
Running mateAlben W. BarkleyEarl WarrenFielding L. Wright
Electoral vote30318939
States carried28164
Popular vote24,179,34721,991,2921,175,930
Percentage49.6%45.1%2.4%

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About this image
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Truman/Barkley; Red denotes those won by Dewey/Warren; Orange denotes those won by Thurmond/Wright (including a faithless elector in Tennessee). Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

President before election

Harry S. Truman
Democratic

Elected President

Harry S. Truman
Democratic

 
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United States presidential election, 1948
United States
1944 ←
November 2, 1948
→ 1952

All 531 electoral votes of the Electoral College
266 electoral votes needed to win
 Harry-truman.jpgThomasDewey.pngStromThurmond.png
NomineeHarry S. TrumanThomas E. DeweyStrom Thurmond
PartyDemocraticRepublicanDixiecrat
Home stateMissouriNew YorkSouth Carolina
Running mateAlben W. BarkleyEarl WarrenFielding L. Wright
Electoral vote30318939
States carried28164
Popular vote24,179,34721,991,2921,175,930
Percentage49.6%45.1%2.4%

United States presidential election in Alabama, 1948United States presidential election in Arizona, 1948United States presidential election in Arkansas, 1948United States presidential election in California, 1948United States presidential election in Colorado, 1948United States presidential election in Connecticut, 1948United States presidential election in Delaware, 1948United States presidential election in Florida, 1948United States presidential election in Georgia, 1948United States presidential election in Idaho, 1948United States presidential election in Illinois, 1948United States presidential election in Indiana, 1948United States presidential election in Iowa, 1948United States presidential election in Kansas, 1948United States presidential election in Kentucky, 1948United States presidential election in Louisiana, 1948United States presidential election in Maine, 1948United States presidential election in Maryland, 1948United States presidential election in Massachusetts, 1948United States presidential election in Michigan, 1948United States presidential election in Minnesota, 1948United States presidential election in Mississippi, 1948United States presidential election in Missouri, 1948United States presidential election in Montana, 1948United States presidential election in Nebraska, 1948United States presidential election in Nevada, 1948United States presidential election in New Hampshire, 1948United States presidential election in New Jersey, 1948United States presidential election in New Mexico, 1948United States presidential election in New York, 1948United States presidential election in North Carolina, 1948United States presidential election in North Dakota, 1948United States presidential election in Ohio, 1948United States presidential election in Oklahoma, 1948United States presidential election in Oregon, 1948United States presidential election in Pennsylvania, 1948United States presidential election in Rhode Island, 1948United States presidential election in South Carolina, 1948United States presidential election in South Dakota, 1948United States presidential election in Tennessee, 1948United States presidential election in Texas, 1948United States presidential election in Utah, 1948United States presidential election in Vermont, 1948United States presidential election in Virginia, 1948United States presidential election in Washington, 1948United States presidential election in West Virginia, 1948United States presidential election in Wisconsin, 1948United States presidential election in Wyoming, 1948United States presidential election in Delaware, 1948United States presidential election in Maryland, 1948United States presidential election in New Hampshire, 1948United States presidential election in New Jersey, 1948United States presidential election in Massachusetts, 1948United States presidential election in Connecticut, 1948United States presidential election in West Virginia, 1948United States presidential election in Vermont, 1948United States presidential election in Rhode Island, 1948ElectoralCollege1948.svg
About this image
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Truman/Barkley; Red denotes those won by Dewey/Warren; Orange denotes those won by Thurmond/Wright (including a faithless elector in Tennessee). Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

President before election

Harry S. Truman
Democratic

Elected President

Harry S. Truman
Democratic

The United States presidential election of 1948 was the 41st quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 2, 1948. Incumbent President Harry S. Truman, the Democratic nominee, successfully ran for election against Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican nominee.

The election is considered to be the greatest election upset in American history.[1][2][3] Virtually every prediction (with or without public opinion polls) indicated that Truman would be defeated by Dewey. Both parties had severe ideological splits, with the far left and far right of the Democratic Party running third-party campaigns. Truman's surprise victory was the fifth consecutive presidential win for the Democratic Party, the longest winning streak in the history of the party, and second-longest in the history of both modern parties (surpassed only by the Republicans' six consecutive victories from 1860 to 1880). With simultaneous success in the 1948 congressional elections, the Democrats regained control of both houses of Congress, which they had lost in 1946.[4] Truman's feisty campaign style energized his base of traditional Democrats, most of the white South, Catholic and Jewish voters, and—in a surprise—Midwestern farmers.[5] Thus, Truman's election confirmed the Democratic Party's status as the nation's majority party, a status it would retain until the conservative realignment in 1968.[6]

Nominations[edit]

Republican Party nomination[edit]

As would be experienced by the Democrats, there was a boom for General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the most popular general of World War II and a favorite in the polls. However, unlike the latter movement within the Democratic party, the Republican draft movement came largely from the grassroots of the party. By January 23, 1948, the grassroots movement had successfully entered Eisenhower's name into every state holding a Republican presidential primary, and polls gave him a significant lead against all other contenders. With the first state primary approaching, Eisenhower was forced to make a quick decision. Stating that soldiers should keep out of politics, Eisenhower declined to run and requested that the grassroots draft movement cease its activities. After a number of failed efforts to get Eisenhower to reconsider, the organization disbanded, with the majority of its leadership endorsing the presidential campaign of the former Governor of Minnesota, Harold Stassen.

With Eisenhower refusing to run, the contest for the Republican nomination was between New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, Harold Stassen, Ohio Senator Robert Taft, California Governor Earl Warren, General Douglas MacArthur and Arthur H. Vandenberg of Michigan, the senior Republican in the Senate. Dewey, who had been the Republican nominee in 1944, was regarded as the frontrunner when the primaries began. Dewey was the acknowledged leader of the Republican Party's eastern establishment. In 1946 he had been re-elected governor of New York by the largest margin in state history. Dewey's handicap was that many Republicans disliked him on a personal level; he often struck observers as cold, stiff, and calculating. Taft was the leader of the Republican Party's conservative wing, which was strongest in the Midwest and parts of the South. Taft called for abolishing many New Deal welfare programs, which he felt were harmful to business interests, and he was skeptical of American involvement in foreign alliances such as the United Nations. Taft had two major weaknesses: he was a plodding, dull campaigner, and he was viewed by most party leaders as being too conservative and controversial to win a presidential election.[7]

Both Vandenberg and Warren were highly popular in their home states, but each refused to campaign in the primaries, which limited their chances of winning the nomination. However, their supporters hoped that in the event of a Dewey-Taft-Stassen deadlock, the convention would turn to their man as a compromise candidate.

General MacArthur, the famous war hero was especially popular among conservatives. Since he was serving in Japan as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers occupying that nation, he was unable to campaign for the nomination. However, he did make it known that he would not decline the GOP nomination if it were offered to him, and some conservative Republicans hoped that by winning a primary contest he could prove his popularity with voters. They chose to enter his name in the Wisconsin primary.[8]

The "surprise" candidate of 1948 was Stassen, a liberal from Minnesota.[9] Stassen had been elected governor of Minnesota at the age of 31; he resigned as governor in 1943 to serve in the wartime Navy. In 1945 he served on the committee that created the United Nations. Stassen was widely regarded as the most liberal of the Republican candidates, yet during the primaries he was criticized for being vague on many issues. Stassen stunned Dewey and MacArthur in the Wisconsin primary; Stassen's surprise victory virtually eliminated General MacArthur, whose supporters had made a major effort on his behalf. Stassen defeated Dewey again in the Nebraska primary, thus making him the new frontrunner. He then made the strategic mistake of trying to beat Taft in Ohio, Taft's home state. Stassen believed that if he could defeat Taft in his home state, Taft would be forced to quit the race and most of Taft's delegates would support him instead of Dewey. However, Taft defeated Stassen in his native Ohio, and Stassen earned the hostility of the party's conservatives. Even so, Stassen was still leading Dewey in the polls for the upcoming Oregon primary. However, Dewey, who realized that a defeat in Oregon would end his chances at the nomination, sent his powerful political organization into the state and spent large sums of money on campaign ads in Oregon. Dewey also agreed to debate Stassen in Oregon on national radio. Held on May 17, 1948, it was the first-ever radio debate between presidential candidates. The sole issue of the debate concerned whether to outlaw the Communist Party of the United States. Stassen, despite his liberal reputation, argued in favor of outlawing the party, while Dewey forcefully argued against it; at one point he famously stated that "you can't shoot an idea with a gun." Most observers rated Dewey as the winner of the debate, and four days later Dewey defeated Stassen in Oregon. From this point forward, the New York governor had the momentum he needed to win his party's second nomination.[10]

Republican Convention[edit]

The 1948 Republican National Convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was the first presidential convention to be shown on national television. As the convention opened, Dewey was believed to have a large lead in the delegate count. His major opponents – Taft, Stassen, and Vandenberg – met in Taft's hotel suite to plan a "stop-Dewey" movement. However, a key obstacle soon developed when the three men refused to unite behind a single candidate to oppose Dewey. Instead, all three men simply agreed to try to hold their own delegates in the hopes of preventing Dewey from obtaining a majority. This proved to be futile, as Dewey's efficient campaign team methodically gathered the remaining delegates they needed to win the nomination. After the second round of balloting, Dewey was only 33 votes short of victory. Taft then called Stassen and urged him to withdraw from the race and endorse him as Dewey's main opponent. When Stassen refused, Taft wrote a concession speech and had it read at the start of the third ballot; Dewey was then nominated by acclamation. Dewey chose popular Governor Earl Warren (and future Chief Justice) of California as his running mate. Following the convention, most political experts in the news media rated the Republican ticket as an almost-certain winner over the Democrats.

The tally
Ballot123
Thomas E. Dewey4345151094
Robert Taft2242740
Harold Stassen1571490
Arthur H. Vandenberg62620
Earl Warren59570
Dwight H. Green5600
Alfred E. Driscoll3500
Raymond E. Baldwin19190
Joseph William Martin, Jr.18100
B. Carroll Reece1500
Douglas MacArthur1180
Everett Dirksen100
Abstaining100

Democratic Party nomination[edit]

Democratic candidates:

On July 12, the Democratic National Convention convened in Philadelphia in the same arena where the Republicans had met a few weeks earlier. Spirits were low; the Republicans had taken control of both houses of the United States Congress and a majority of state governorships during the 1946 mid-term elections, and the public opinion polls showed Truman trailing Republican nominee Dewey, sometimes by double digits. Furthermore, some liberal Democrats had joined Henry A. Wallace's new Progressive Party, and party leaders feared that Wallace would take enough votes from Truman to give the large Northern and Midwestern states to the Republicans.

Conservatives dominated the party in the South, and they were angered by the growing voice of northern labor unions in the party. The hope that Truman would reverse course had faded by 1947, when he vetoed the Taft-Hartley Law to control union power. Truman's appointment of a liberal civil rights commission convinced Southern conservatives that to re-establish their voice they had to threaten third party action to defeat Truman in 1948.[11]

Truman was aware of his unpopularity. In July 1947 he offered to run as Eisenhower's running mate on the Democratic ticket if MacArthur won the Republican nomination, an offer which Eisenhower declined.[12]

As a result of Truman's low standing in the polls, several Democratic party bosses began working to "dump" Truman and nominate a more popular candidate. Among the leaders of this movement were Jacob Arvey, the head of the powerful Cook County (Chicago) Democratic organization; Frank Hague, the boss of New Jersey; James Roosevelt, the eldest son of former President Franklin D. Roosevelt; and liberal Senator Claude Pepper of Florida. The rebels hoped to draft Eisenhower as the Democratic presidential candidate. However, Eisenhower officially refused to be a candidate on July 10. There was an attempt to put forward Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, but to many members of the movement he was considered to be too liberal, and Douglas himself declared he also would not run, later that same night. Finally, Claude Pepper declared his intention to challenge Truman for the presidential nomination. His candidacy was cut short when the Americans for Democratic Action and the Congress of Industrial Organizations withheld their support, appalled at his support for the Soviet Union. Combined with the refusal by most of the Dump-Truman delegates to support his candidacy, Pepper was forced to withdraw two days later. Lacking a candidate acceptable to all sides, the leaders of the dump-Truman movement reluctantly agreed to support Truman for the nomination.

Democratic Convention[edit]

At the Democratic Convention, Truman initially proposed a civil rights plank that moderated the radical support he had expressed at the NAACP in 1947 and to Congress in February 1948, with language that placed civil rights in the context of the Constitution. This proposal disappointed Northern liberals who wanted radical and swift reform, but also failed to placate the vigorous opposition from Southern conservatives, and other proposals emerged.[13][14] Former Texas Governor Dan Moody proposed a plank that instead supported the status quo of states' rights; a similar but shorter proposal was made by Cecil Sims of the Tennessee delegation.[15] On the liberal side, Wisconsin Representative Andrew Biemiller proposed a strong civil rights plank which was more explicit and direct in its language than Truman's convention proposal.[16] Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey led the support for the Biemiller plank. In his speech, Humphrey memorably stated that "the time has come for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights!"[17]

Truman and his staff knew it was highly likely that any civil rights plank would lead to Southern delegates staging a walk-out in protest, but Truman believed that civil rights was an important moral cause and ultimately abandoned his advisers' attempts to "soften the approach" with the moderate plank; so the President supported and defended the "Crackpot" Biemiller plank, which passed by 651.5 votes to 582.5.[18] It also received strong support from many of the big-city party bosses, most of whom felt that the civil rights platform would encourage the growing black population in their cities to vote for the Democrats.[citation needed] The passage of the civil rights platform caused some three dozen Southern delegates, led by South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond, to walk out of the convention. The Southern delegates who remained nominated Senator Richard Russell, Jr., of Georgia for the Democratic nomination as a rebuke to Truman. Nonetheless, 947 Democratic delegates voted for Truman as the Democratic nominee, while Russell received only 266 votes, all from the South.

Truman's first choice for his running mate was Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, hoping that it might make the ticket more appealing to liberals. However, Douglas refused. Needing an alternative, Truman then selected Kentucky Senator Alben W. Barkley, who had delivered the convention's keynote address, as his running mate, with this nomination being made by acclamation.[19]

The Balloting
Presidential BallotVice Presidential Ballot
Harry S. Truman947.5Alben W. Barkley1,234
Richard Russell, Jr.266
James A. Roe15
Paul V. McNutt2
Alben W. Barkley1

Progressive Party nomination[edit]

Meanwhile, the Democratic party fragmented. A new Progressive Party—the name had been used earlier by Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 and Robert M. La Follette in 1924—was created afresh in 1948 with the nomination of Henry A. Wallace, who had served as Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President of the United States, and Secretary of Commerce under Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1946 President Truman had fired Wallace as Secretary of Commerce when Wallace publicly opposed Truman's firm moves to counter the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Wallace's 1948 platform opposed the Cold War policies of President Truman, including the Marshall Plan and Truman Doctrine. The Progressives proposed stronger government regulation and control of Big Business. They also campaigned to end discrimination against blacks and women, backed a minimum wage and called for the elimination of the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating the issue of communist spies within the U.S. government and labor unions. Wallace and his supporters believed that the committee was violating the civil liberties of government workers and labor unions. However, the Progressives also generated a great deal of controversy due to the widespread belief that they were secretly controlled by Communists who were more loyal to the Soviet Union than the United States. Wallace himself denied being a Communist, but he repeatedly refused to disavow their support, and at one point was quoted as saying that the "Communists are the closest thing to the early Christian martyrs."[20] Walter Reuther, the president of the influential United Auto Workers union, strongly opposed Wallace's candidacy, stating that "people who are not sympathetic with democracy in America are influencing him."[21] Philip Murray, the president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), stated in April 1948 that "the Communist Party is directly responsible for the creation of the third party [Progressive Party] in the United States."[21] Wallace was also hurt when Westbrook Pegler, a prominent conservative newspaper columnist, revealed that Wallace as Vice President had written coded letters discussing prominent politicians such as Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to his controversial Russian New Age spiritual guru Nicholas Roerich; the letters were nicknamed the "Guru letters." In his book Out of the Jaws of Victory, the journalist Jules Abels wrote: "Personalities were referred to by symbolic titles - Roosevelt was 'The Flaming One', Churchill 'The Roaring Lion', and Cordell Hull 'The Sour One'...some of the letters were signed 'Wallace', others 'Galahad'." This revelation - and quotes from the letters were published - led to much ridicule of Wallace in the national press.

The Progressive Party Convention, which was also held in Philadelphia, was a highly contentious affair; several famous newspaper journalists, such as H. L. Mencken and Dorothy Thompson, publicly accused the Progressives of being covertly controlled by Communists. Many in the Progressive Party quit the party in protest over what they perceived as the undue influence Communists exerted over Wallace.

Norman Thomas ran as the Socialist Party presidential candidate in large part to offer an alternative to Wallace.

Senator Glen H. Taylor of Idaho, an eccentric figure who was known as a "singing cowboy" and who had rode his horse "Nugget" up the steps of the United States Capitol after winning election to the Senate in 1944, was named as Wallace's running mate. The Wallace-Taylor ticket came in fourth with 1,157,328 votes (2.4%). This was slightly less than the States' Rights Party, but the Progressive Party received no electoral votes.

States' Rights Democratic Party nomination[edit]

In some southern states Strom Thurmond had managed to obtain the Democratic Party line, but in the grand majority he had to run under the label of the States' Rights Democratic Party. Only in those states in which he ran under the standard Democratic Party label did he win, his best performance as a third-party candidate being a far second in Georgia.

States' Rights Democratic candidates:

The Southern Democrats who had bolted the Democratic Convention over Truman's civil rights platform promptly met at Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, and formed yet another political party, which they named the "States' Rights" Democratic Party. More commonly known as the "Dixiecrats," the party's main goal was continuing the policy of racial segregation in the South and the Jim Crow laws that sustained it. South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond, who had led the walkout, became the party's presidential nominee after the convention's initial favorite, Arkansas Governor Benjamin Laney withdrew his name from consideration. Mississippi Governor Fielding L. Wright received the vice-presidential nomination. The Dixiecrats had no chance of winning the election themselves, since they could not get on the ballot in enough states. Their strategy was to take enough Southern states from Truman to force the election into the United States House of Representatives under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment, where they could then extract concessions from either Truman or Dewey on racial issues in exchange for their support. Even if Dewey won the election outright, the Dixiecrats hoped that their defection would show that the Democratic Party needed Southern support in order to win national elections, and that this fact would weaken the pro-civil rights movement among Northern and Western Democrats. However, the Dixiecrats were weakened when most Southern Democratic leaders (such as Governor Herman Talmadge of Georgia and "Boss" E. H. Crump of Tennessee) refused to support the party. Despite being an incumbent President, Truman was not placed on the ballot in Alabama.[22] In the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and South Carolina, the party was able to be labeled as the main Democratic Party ticket on the local ballots on election night.[23] Outside of these four states, however, it was only listed as a third-party ticket.[23]

General election[edit]

The fall campaign[edit]

Dewey during a campaign tour in New York
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Given Truman's sinking popularity and the seemingly fatal three-way split in the Democratic Party, Dewey appeared unbeatable. Top Republicans believed that all their candidate had to do to win was to avoid major mistakes; in keeping with this advice, Dewey carefully avoided risks. He spoke in platitudes, avoided controversial issues, and was vague on what he planned to do as president. Speech after speech was filled with non-political, optimistic assertions of the obvious, including the now infamous quote "You know that your future is still ahead of you." An editorial in The (Louisville) Courier-Journal summed it up as such: "No presidential candidate in the future will be so inept that four of his major speeches can be boiled down to these historic four sentences: Agriculture is important. Our rivers are full of fish. You cannot have freedom without liberty. Our future lies ahead."[24] Truman, trailing in the polls, decided to adopt a slashing, no-holds-barred campaign. He ridiculed Dewey by name, criticized Dewey's refusal to address specific issues, and scornfully targeted the Republican-controlled 80th Congress with a wave of relentless and blistering partisan assaults. He nicknamed the Republican-controlled Congress as the "do-nothing" Congress, a remark which brought strong criticism from Republican Congressional leaders (such as Taft), but no comment from Dewey. In fact, Dewey rarely mentioned Truman's name during the campaign, which fit into his strategy of appearing to be above petty partisan politics.

Under Dewey's leadership, the Republicans had enacted a platform at their 1948 convention that called for expanding Social Security, more funding for public housing, civil rights legislation, and promotion of health and education by the federal government. These positions were, however, unacceptable to the conservative Congressional Republican leadership. Truman exploited this rift in the opposing party by calling a special session of Congress on "Turnip Day" (referring to an old piece of Missouri folklore about planting turnips in late July) and daring the Republican Congressional leadership to pass its own platform. The 80th Congress played into Truman's hands, delivering very little in the way of substantive legislation during this time. Truman simply ignored the fact that Dewey's policies were considerably more liberal than most of his fellow Republicans, and instead he concentrated his fire against what he characterized as the conservative, obstructionist tendencies of the unpopular 80th Congress.

Clifford K. Berryman's cartoon depicts the attitude of the time.

Truman toured much of the nation with his fiery rhetoric, playing to large, enthusiastic crowds. "Give 'em hell, Harry" was a popular slogan shouted out at stop after stop along the tour. However, the polls and the pundits all held that Dewey's lead was insurmountable, and that Truman's efforts were for naught. Indeed, Truman's own staff considered the campaign a last hurrah. The only person who appears to have considered Truman's campaign to be winnable was the president himself, who confidently predicted victory to anyone and everyone who would listen to him. However, even Truman's own wife Bess had private doubts that her husband could win.

In the final weeks of the campaign, American movie theaters agreed to play two short newsreel-like campaign films in support of the two major-party candidates; each film had been created by its respective campaign organization. The Dewey film, shot professionally on an impressive budget, featured very high production values, but somehow reinforced an image of the New York governor as cautious and distant. The Truman film, hastily assembled on virtually no budget by the perpetually cash-short Truman campaign, relied heavily on public-domain and newsreel footage of the president taking part in major world events and signing important legislation. Perhaps unintentionally, the Truman film visually reinforced an image of him as engaged and decisive. Years later, historian David McCullough cited the expensive, but lackluster, Dewey film, and the far cheaper, but more effective, Truman film, as important factors in determining the preferences of undecided voters.

As the campaign drew to a close, the polls showed Truman was gaining. Though Truman lost all nine of the Gallup Poll's post-convention surveys, Dewey's Gallup lead dropped from 17 points in late September to 9% in mid-October to just 5 points by the end of the month, just above the poll's margin of error. Although Truman was gaining momentum, most political analysts were reluctant to break with the conventional wisdom and say that a Truman victory was a serious possibility. The Roper Poll had suspended its presidential polling at the end of September, barring "some development of outstanding importance," which in their subsequent view, never occurred. Dewey was aware of his slippage, but was convinced by his advisors and family not to counterattack the Truman campaign.

In the campaign's final days, many newspapers, magazines, and political pundits were so confident of Dewey's impending victory they wrote articles to be printed the morning after the election speculating about the new "Dewey Presidency." Life magazine printed a large photo in its final edition before the election. Entitled "Our Next President Rides by Ferryboat over San Francisco Bay", the photo showed Dewey and his staff riding across the city's harbor. Newsweek polled fifty experts; all fifty predicted a Dewey win. Several well-known and influential newspaper columnists, such as Drew Pearson and Joseph Alsop, wrote columns to be printed the morning after the election speculating about Dewey's possible choices for his cabinet. Walter Winchell reported that gambling odds were 15 to 1 against Truman. More than 500 newspapers, accounting for over 78% of the nation's total circulation, endorsed Dewey. Truman picked up 182 endorsements, accounting for just 10% of America's newspaper readership. Alistair Cooke, the distinguished writer for the Manchester Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom, published an article on the day of the election entitled "Harry S. Truman: A Study of a Failure." For its television coverage, NBC News constructed a large model of the White House containing two elephants that would pop out when NBC announced Dewey's victory; since Truman's defeat was considered certain, no donkeys were placed in the White House model.

As Truman made his way to his hometown of Independence, Missouri, to await the election returns, some among his inner circle had already accepted other jobs, and not a single reporter traveling on his campaign train thought that he would win.

Results[edit]

Famous photograph of Truman grinning and holding up a copy of the newspaper that erroneously announced his defeat.

On election night, Dewey, his family, and campaign staff confidently gathered in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City to await the returns.[25] Truman, aided by the Secret Service, sneaked away from reporters covering him in Kansas City and rode to nearby Excelsior Springs, Missouri. There he took a room in the historic Elms Hotel, had dinner and a Turkish bath, and went to sleep.[26] As the votes came in, Truman took an early lead which he never lost. The leading radio commentators, such as H. V. Kaltenborn of NBC, still confidently predicted that once the "late returns" came in Dewey would overcome Truman's lead and win. At midnight, Truman awoke and turned on the radio in his room; he heard Kaltenborn announce that while Truman was still ahead in the popular vote, he could not possibly win. At 4 am Truman awoke again, heard on the radio that his popular-vote lead was now nearly two million votes, and decided to ride back to Kansas City.[26] For the rest of his life, Truman would gleefully mimic Kaltenborn's voice predicting his defeat throughout that election night. Dewey, meanwhile, realized that he was in trouble when early returns from New England and New York showed him running well behind his expected vote total. He stayed up for the rest of the night and early morning analyzing the votes as they came in. By 10:30 am he was convinced that he had lost; at 11:14 am he sent a gracious telegram of concession to Truman.[27]

The Chicago Daily Tribune, a pro-Republican newspaper, was so sure of Dewey's victory that on Tuesday afternoon, before any polls closed, it printed "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" as its headline for the following day. Part of the reason Truman's victory came as such a shock was because of as-yet uncorrected flaws in the emerging craft of public opinion polling. Evidence from recent elections falsely convinced pollsters that voters had already decided whom they would support by September. As a result many pollsters were so confident of Dewey's victory that they simply stopped polling voters weeks before the election, and thus missed a last-minute surge of support for the Democrats. It has been estimated that some 14% of Dewey's supporters switched to Truman in the final days before the election. After 1948, pollsters would survey voters until the day before the election: they would also announce their results on television, more or less in real time.

The key states in the 1948 election were Ohio, California, and Illinois. Truman narrowly won all three states by a margin of less than one percentage point apiece. These three states had a combined total of 78 electoral votes. Had Dewey carried all three states by the same narrow margins, he would have won the election in the Electoral College, while still losing the popular vote. Had Dewey won any two of the three states, the Dixiecrats would have succeeded in their goal of forcing the election into the House of Representatives. The extreme closeness of the vote in these three states was the major reason why Dewey waited until late on the morning of November 3 to concede. A similarly narrow margin garnered Idaho and Nevada's electoral votes for Truman. Dewey countered by almost as narrowly carrying New York and Pennsylvania, the states with the most electoral votes at the time, as well as his native state of Michigan, but this was too little to give him the election. Dewey would always believe that he lost the election because he lost the rural vote in the Midwest, which he had won in 1944 (the Kaltenborn predictions which Truman would joyously mock had, in fact, taken for granted that the "country vote" would go to Dewey).[28]

Journalist Sidney Lubell found in his post-1948 survey of voters that Truman, not Dewey, seemed the safer, more conservative candidate to the "new middle class" that had developed over the previous 20 years. He wrote that "to an appreciable part of the electorate, the Democrats had replaced the Republicans as the party of prosperity" during and after the war. Lubell quoted a man who, when asked why he did not vote Republican after moving to the suburbs, answered "I own a nice home, have a new car and am much better off than my parents were. I've been a Democrat all my life. Why should I change?" Dewey's promise of a "great house cleaning" in Washington worried an Iowa minister who wanted to retain farm subsidies for parishioners. Worried about the consequences of another depression he voted Democratic for the first time in his church's history. Truman received a record number of Catholic votes, exceeding even the Catholic support of Al Smith in 1928, in part because Wallace drew leftists away from the Democrats.[29]

Other possible factors for Truman's victory included his aggressive, populist campaign style; Dewey's complacent, distant approach to the campaign, and his failure to respond to Truman's attacks; broad public approval of Truman's foreign policy, notably the Berlin Airlift of that year; and widespread dissatisfaction with the institution Truman labeled as the "do-nothing, good-for-nothing 80th Republican Congress." In addition, after suffering a relatively severe recession in 1946 and 1947 (in which real GDP dropped by 12% and inflation went over 15%), the economy began recovering throughout 1948, thus possibly motivating many voters to give Truman credit for the economic recovery.

1948 was a huge year for the Democrats, as the Democrats not only retained the presidency but recaptured both houses of Congress as well. Furthermore, the two third parties did not hurt Truman nearly as much as expected. Thurmond's Dixiecrats carried only four Southern states, a lower total than predicted. The civil rights platform helped Truman win large majorities among black voters in the populous Northern and Midwestern states and may well have made the difference for Truman in states such as Illinois and Ohio. Wallace's Progressives received only 2.4% of the national popular vote, well below their expected vote total and slightly less than the Dixiecrats, and Wallace did not take as many liberal votes from Truman as many political pundits had predicted. Some analysts have even argued that the separate candidacies of Wallace and Thurmond were beneficial to Truman by removing the separate taints of communism and racism from the Democratic Party.

The 1948 election marked only the second time in American presidential election history that the winning candidate won despite losing Pennsylvania and New York (the first time being in 1916; later such elections included 1968, 2000, and 2004). This was also the last time a Democratic candidate won Arizona by a majority of the state's popular vote (Bill Clinton carried the state by a plurality in 1996). Truman in 1948 became the first Democrat ever to be elected president without carrying Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, or South Carolina (the Dixiecrats' states) and the last to win without Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, or Delaware. It contrasted with elections from across the world, as Truman was a war leader who managed to win re-election.

Presidential candidatePartyHome statePopular voteElectoral
vote
Running mate
CountPctVice-presidential candidateHome stateElect. vote
Harry S. TrumanDemocratic(a)Missouri24,179,34749.55%303Alben W. BarkleyKentucky303
Thomas E. DeweyRepublican(b)New York21,991,29245.07%189Earl WarrenCalifornia189
Strom ThurmondStates' Rights DemocraticSouth Carolina1,175,9302.41%39Fielding L. WrightMississippi39
Henry A. WallaceProgressive/American LaborIowa1,157,3282.37%0Glen H. TaylorIdaho0
Norman ThomasSocialistNew York139,5690.29%0Tucker P. SmithMichigan0
Claude A. WatsonProhibitionCalifornia103,7080.21%0Dale LearnPennsylvania0
Edward A. TeichertSocialist LaborPennsylvania29,2440.06%0Stephen EmeryNew York0
Farrell DobbsSocialist WorkersMinnesota13,6130.03%0Grace CarlsonMinnesota0
Other3,5040.01%Other
Total48,793,535100%531531
Needed to win266266

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. 1948 Presidential Election Results. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (August 1, 2005).Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (August 1, 2005).

Popular vote
Truman
  
49.55%
Dewey
  
45.07%
Thurmond
  
2.41%
Wallace
  
2.37%
Others
  
0.60%
Electoral vote
Truman
  
57.06%
Dewey
  
35.59%
Thurmond
  
7.34%


Results by state[edit]

[30]

States won by Truman/Barkley
States won by Dewey/Warren
States won by Thurmond/Wright
Harry S. Truman
Democratic
Thomas E. Dewey
Republican
J. Strom Thurmond
Dixiecrat
Henry Wallace
Progressive
Norman Thomas
Socialist
OtherMarginState Total
Stateelectoral
votes
# %electoral
votes
# %electoral
votes
# %electoral
votes
# %electoral
votes
# %electoral
votes
# %electoral
votes
# %#
Alabama11---40,93019.04-171,44379.75111,5220.71----1,0850.50--130,513-60.71214,980AL
Arizona495,25153.79477,59743.82----3,3101.87----9070.51-17,6549.97177,065AZ
Arkansas9149,65961.72950,95921.02-40,06816.52-7510.31-1,0370.43-10.00-98,70040.71242,475AR
California251,913,13447.57251,895,26947.13-1,2280.03-190,3814.73-3,4590.09-18,0670.45-17,8650.444,021,538CA
Colorado6267,28851.886239,71446.52----6,1151.19-1,6780.33-4420.09-27,5745.35515,237CO
Connecticut8423,29747.91-437,75449.558---13,7131.55-6,9640.79-1,7900.20--14,457-1.64883,518CT
Delaware367,81348.76-69,58850.043---1,0500.75-2500.18-3720.27--1,775-1.28139,073DE
Florida8281,98848.828194,28033.63-89,75515.54-11,6202.01-------87,70815.18577,643FL
Georgia12254,64660.811276,69118.31-85,05520.31-1,6360.39-30.00-7330.18-169,59140.50418,764GA
Idaho4107,37049.984101,51447.26----4,9722.31-3320.15-6280.29-5,8562.73214,816ID
Illinois281,994,71550.07281,961,10349.22-------11,5220.29-16,7060.42-33,6120.843,984,046IL
Indiana13807,83348.78-821,07949.5813---9,6490.58-2,1790.13-15,4740.93--13,246-0.801,656,214IN
Iowa10522,38050.3110494,01847.58----12,1251.17-1,8290.18-7,9120.76-28,3622.731,038,264IA
Kansas8351,90244.61-423,03953.638---4,6030.58-2,8070.36-6,4680.82--71,137-9.02788,819KS
Kentucky11466,75656.7411341,21041.48-10,4111.27-1,5670.19-1,2840.16-1,4300.17-125,54615.26822,658KY
Louisiana10136,34432.75-72,65717.45-204,29049.07103,0350.73----100.00--67,946-16.32416,336LA
Maine5111,91642.27-150,23456.745---1,8840.71-5470.21-2060.08--38,318-14.47264,787ME
Maryland8286,52148.01-294,81449.4082,4760.41-9,9831.67-2,9410.49-----8,293-1.39596,735MD
Massachusetts161,151,78854.6616909,37043.16----38,1571.81----7,8310.37-242,41811.502,107,146MA
Michigan191,003,44847.57-1,038,59549.2319---46,5152.20-6,0630.29-14,9880.71--35,147-1.672,109,609MI
Minnesota11692,96657.1611483,61739.89----27,8662.30-4,6460.38-3,1310.26-209,34917.271,212,226MN
Mississippi919,38410.09-5,0432.62-167,53887.1792250.12--------148,154-77.09192,190MS
Missouri15917,31558.1115655,03941.49-420.00-3,9980.25-2,2220.14-120.00-262,27616.611,578,628MO
Montana4119,07153.09496,77043.15----7,3133.26-6950.31-4290.19-22,3019.94224,278MT
Nebraska6224,16545.85-264,77454.156---------10.00--40,609-8.31488,940NE
Nevada331,29150.37329,35747.26----1,4692.36-------1,9343.1162,117NV
New Hampshire4107,99546.66-121,29952.41470.00-1,9700.85-860.04-830.04--13,304-5.75231,440NH
New Jersey16895,45545.93-981,12450.3316---42,6832.19-10,5210.54-19,7721.01--85,669-4.391,949,555NJ
New Mexico4105,46456.38480,30342.93----1,0370.55-830.04-1760.09-25,16113.45187,063NM
New York472,780,20445.01-2,841,16345.9947---509,5598.25-40,8790.66-5,5320.09--60,959-0.996,177,337NY
North Carolina14459,07058.0214258,57232.68-69,6528.80-3,9150.49-------200,49825.34791,209NC
North Dakota495,81243.41-115,13952.1743740.17-8,3913.80-1,0000.45-----19,327-8.76220,716ND
Ohio251,452,79149.48251,445,68449.24----37,5961.28-------7,1070.242,936,071OH
Oklahoma10452,78262.7510268,81737.25-------------183,96525.49721,599OK
Oregon6243,14746.40-260,90449.786---14,9782.86-5,0510.96-----17,757-3.39524,080OR
Pennsylvania351,752,42646.92-1,902,19750.9335---55,1611.48-11,3250.30-14,0390.38--149,771-4.013,735,148PA
Rhode Island4188,73657.594135,78741.44----2,6190.80-4290.13-1310.04-52,94916.16327,702RI
South Carolina834,42324.14-5,3863.78-102,60771.9781540.11-10.00-----68,184-47.82142,571SC
South Dakota4117,65347.04-129,65151.844---2,8011.12--------11,998-4.80250,105SD
Tennessee12270,40249.1411202,91436.87-73,81513.4111,8640.34-1,2880.23----67,48812.26550,283TN
Texas23824,23565.9623303,46724.29-113,7769.11-3,9200.31-9190.07-3,2600.26-520,76841.681,249,577TX
Utah4149,15153.984124,40245.02----2,6790.97----730.03-24,7498.96276,305UT
Vermont345,55736.92-75,92661.543---1,2791.04-5850.47-350.03--30,369-24.61123,382VT
Virginia11200,78647.8911172,07041.04-43,39310.35-2,0470.49-7260.17-2340.06-28,7166.85419,256VA
Washington8476,16552.618386,31542.68----31,6923.50-3,5340.39-7,3530.81-89,8509.93905,059WA
West Virginia8429,18857.328316,25142.24----3,3110.44-------112,93715.08748,750WV
Wisconsin12647,31050.7012590,95946.28----25,2821.98-12,5470.98-7020.05-56,3514.411,276,800WI
Wyoming352,35451.62347,94747.27----9310.92-1370.14-560.06-4,4074.35101,425WY
TOTALS:53124,179,34749.5530321,991,29245.071891,175,9302.41391,157,3282.37-139,5690.29-150,0690.31-2,188,0554.4848,793,535US

(a) In New York, the Truman vote was a fusion of the Democratic and Liberal slates. There, Truman obtained 2,557,642 votes on the Democratic ticket and 222,562 votes on the Liberal ticket.[31]
(b) In Mississippi, the Dewey vote was a fusion of the Republican and Independent Republican slates. There, Dewey obtained 2,595 votes on the Republican ticket and 2,448 votes on the Independent Republican ticket.[31]

Close states[edit]

Margin of victory less than 5% (269 electoral votes):

  1. Ohio, 0.24%
  2. California, 0.44%
  3. Indiana, 0.80%
  4. Illinois, 0.84%
  5. New York, 0.99%
  6. Delaware, 1.28%
  7. Maryland, 1.39%
  8. Connecticut, 1.64%
  9. Michigan, 1.67%
  10. Iowa, 2.73%
  11. Idaho, 2.73%
  12. Nevada, 3.11%
  13. Oregon, 3.39%
  14. Pennsylvania, 4.01%
  15. Wyoming, 4.35%
  16. New Jersey, 4.39%
  17. Wisconsin, 4.41%
  18. South Dakota, 4.80%

Margin of victory between 5% and 10% (59 electoral votes):

  1. Colorado, 5.35%
  2. New Hampshire, 5.75%
  3. Virginia, 6.85%
  4. Nebraska, 8.31%
  5. North Dakota, 8.76%
  6. Utah, 8.96%
  7. Kansas, 9.02%
  8. Washington, 9.93%
  9. Montana, 9.94%
  10. Arizona, 9.97%

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ American Experience. "General Article: Presidential Politics". pbs.org. 
  2. ^ Susan Rosegrant (April 18, 2012). University of Michigan, ed. "ISR and the Truman/Dewey upset". isr.umich.edu. 
  3. ^ Ben Cosgrove. "BEHIND THE PICTURE: ‘DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN’". TIME Magazine. 
  4. ^ "The Nation: Independence Day". Time. November 8, 1948. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  5. ^ DiSalvo, Daniel (2010). "The Politics of a Party Faction: The Liberal-Labor Alliance in the Democratic Party, 1948-1972". Journal of Policy History 22 (3): 269–299. doi:10.1017/S0898030610000114. 
  6. ^ Paul Kleppner et al. The Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1981) pp 203-42
  7. ^ James T. Patterson (1972). Mr. Republican: a biography of Robert A. Taft. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 399–408. 
  8. ^ Howard B. Schonberger, "The General and the Presidency: Douglas MacArthur and the Election of 1948," Wisconsin Magazine of History, (Spring 1974) 57#3 pp. 201–219
  9. ^ Alec Kirby, "'A Major Contender': Harold Stassen and the Politics of American Presidential Nominations," Minnesota History, (Dec 1996) 55#4 pp 150-165
  10. ^ Tom Swafford, "The Last Real Presidential Debate," American Heritage, Feb/Mar 1986, Vol. 37 Issue 2, pp. 66–71
  11. ^ Robert A. Garson, "The Alienation of the South: A Crisis for Harry S. Truman and the Democratic Party, 1945-1948," Missouri Historical Review, (July 1970) 64#4 pp. 448–471
  12. ^ "Truman Wrote of '48 Offer to Eisenhower" The New York Times, July 11, 2003.
  13. ^ Michael R. Gardner (2003). Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 96. 
  14. ^ Jon E. Taylor (2012). Freedom to Serve: Truman, Civil Rights, and Executive Order 9981. Routledge. p. 94. 
  15. ^ Max Hall (July 14, 1948). "State's Right Plank Defeated". Kentucky New Era. p. 8. 
  16. ^ Michael R. Gardner (2003). Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 97. 
  17. ^ Carl Solberg (2003). Hubert Humphrey: A Biography. Minnesota Historical Society Press. p. 17. 
  18. ^ Michael R. Gardner (2003). Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks. Southern Illinois University Press. p. 98-99. 
  19. ^ Sitkoff, Harvard (1971). "Harry Truman and the Election of 1948: The Coming of Age of Civil Rights in American Politics". Journal of Southern History 37 (4): 597–616. JSTOR 2206548. 
  20. ^ (Ross, p. 162)
  21. ^ a b (Ross, p. 153)
  22. ^ Hugh Alvin Bone, American Politics and the Party System, p262 (McGraw-Hill 1955).
  23. ^ a b http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-1366
  24. ^ Donaldson, Gary A. (1999). Truman Defeats Dewey. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 173. ISBN 0-8131-2075-6.  Quoting The Courier-Journal, November 18, 1948.
  25. ^ (Ross, p. 241)
  26. ^ a b (Ross, p. 242)
  27. ^ (Ross, p. 240-243)
  28. ^ http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1968/4/1968_4_22.shtml
  29. ^ Lubell, Samuel (1956). The Future of American Politics (2nd ed.). Anchor Press. pp. 62–63,170–172,224–227. 
  30. ^ "1948 Presidential General Election Data - National". Retrieved April 8, 2013. 
  31. ^ a b "Statistics of the Presidential and Congressional Election of November 2, 1948" (PDF). Official website of the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Retrieved April 29, 2008. 

Further reading[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

External links[edit]