Post-Election Coverage: Dewey Defeats Truman

What? You did not know Dewey and Truman ran in the election? Well they did- in 1948. In addition, Dewey won by a landslide. Do not recognize his name among the list of 44 presidents? Well you probably are not that familiar with Van Buren and his wicked sideburns either. Or his successor, William Henry Harrison, whom you might remember better as Tippecanoe and Tyler too. Perhaps Harrison is not that familiar because he only lasted as president for a month. Being president is a hard job. No wonder he quit. And to think some people run for reelection or, like FDR, run for three terms.

Ok, so he did not actually quit. Remember in the post yesterday when Erin described how awful the weather was at Lincoln’s second inauguration. Well, it was worse on Tippecanoe’s big day. The weather was so horrid, and Harrison’s speech so long, that after standing outside in the wet and cold he caught pneumonia and died 4 weeks later. Names like Pierce, Arthur, and Cleveland probably slipped your mind too so no wonder you forgot about Dewey. I know when I hear Dewey my mind goes to Dewey’s Bakery (it is the holiday season!) and those sugar cakes or Moravian cookies (especially the ones dipped in chocolate) but not to an American president.

But, it is true. Dewey was president for less time than Harrison. Election night, November 2, 1948, pronounced Dewey the winner. It was a victory he knew was coming, all the polls said so. All that was left was to sit back and watch those Electoral College votes roll him into the White House. By Election Day, the head of the Secret Service had ditched former President Truman to protect new President Dewey. News headlines were ready, and did roll out, for November 3rd declaring, “Dewey Defeats Truman” with a Republican sweep of Congress.

Only one thing hindered Mr. Dewey. (No, he did not catch pneumonia like Harrison.) His opponent won. Imagine that. In one of the biggest upsets in election history the man who everyone bet on lost. And talk about gloating to your opponents; winner Truman got a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune printed the night before announcing his defeat.

If you think election coverage is bonkers today, imagine 1948. Karl Rove’s claim that calling Ohio last night was an impromptu decision definitely would have had credence in ’48. Politics is often a roller coaster, and Dewey defeating Truman just part of the ride. 


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