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Thomas E. Dewey - A Narrow Loss

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In 1948 Dewey once again secured the Republican nomination and ran for president, this time against President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972; served 1945–53). Despite his efforts in ending World War II and guiding the United States and its allies into a new postwar period, Truman entered the 1948 presidential campaign as the underdog. After the war, the american economy was struggling and people expressed their displeasure by giving Truman a poor approval rating. Even Truman's wife, Bess, predicted he would lose by a landslide. Dewey and his running mate, California governor Earl Warren, led in all the opinion polls.

President-elect Harry S. Truman smiles, holding an early edition of the November 3, 1948, Chicago Tribune, which mistakenly declared Thomas Dewey the victor. Dewey lost in one of the greatest upsets in American political history. (© Bettmann/Corbis)

Truman, however, added a new twist to political campaigning with what became known as "whistle-stops," quick stopovers in cities and towns along the railroad lines. The stops turned out to be a huge and unexpected success. At each whistle-stop Truman would speak to the crowd from the back of the train. He spoke casually to people who now felt like they knew the president and his family personally. He also blasted Dewey and warned that the Republicans would turn America into a nation by the rich and for the rich. Truman's folksy campaign style soon drew cheers of "Give 'em hell Harry," which resounded at each whistle-stop.

While Truman ran an aggressive campaign, Dewey tried not to be controversial to maintain his seemingly comfortable lead. Days before the election the media still predicted a Thomas Dewey White House and several of his aides even bought houses in Washington, D.C., in anticipation of the move. Dewey lost in one of the greatest upsets in American political history.

Dewey conceded defeat on the morning of November 3, 1948, while several newspapers, who had rushed the night before to get the morning edition out on time, ran the headline "Dewey Defeats Truman." A smiling Truman was shown holding the Chicago Tribune newspaper as his victory was announced to the world. Dewey returned to New York again and his job as governor.


Thomas E. Dewey - Continued Public Service [next] [back] Thomas E. Dewey - Beginnings Of Presidential Politics

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