2 November 1948
Harry Truman Reelected President
Harry Truman entered his 1948 reelection campaign with an uphill fight on his hands. His poll numbers were low, and the Republicans nominated the popular New York governor Thomas E. Dewey as its presidential candidate. Worse still was the fact that his own Democratic Party was divided over foreign policy and civil rights—many liberals had broken away to support the Progressive Party candidacy of Henry Wallace, while many southerners backed the nominee of the “Dixiecrats,” Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

Truman’s strategy involved for the most part ignoring his opponents and taking on the GOP-dominated Congress. In late July he called it into special session, and asked it to consider a number of bills that would provide expanded federal funding of social security, housing, health, and education. As Truman predicted, Congress refused to act on any of them, allowing the president to travel the country denouncing the “Do-Nothing Congress.”

Election Day showed this strategy to be a success. Dewey carried several of the largest states, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, but Truman managed to take Illinois, Ohio, and California. Thurmond managed to claim the electoral votes of four southern states, but neither he nor Henry Wallace succeeded in winning much more than two percent of the popular vote.

The 1948 election has gone down as one of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history, as most polls showed Dewey with a small lead. The editors of the Chicago Tribune were so certain that Truman would lose that they printed “Dewey Defeats Truman” as the next morning’s headline.

Links:
- Harry S. Truman, “Whistlestop Speech,” September 28, 1948

- Harry S. Truman, Campaign Speech in St. Louis, Missouri, October 30, 1948