25 October 2008

It Was 1948

Yesterday's "Which Election Was It?" electoral map was from 1948. In what is widely considered the biggest upset in presidential history, Democratic incumbent Harry Truman defeated Republican Thomas Dewey. And while it wasn't a landslide, it wasn't close.

Following the triumph of World War II and the resulting booming economy, the U.S. was on a slight downward trend. Truman's approval ratings were in the cellar and the 1940 Republican presidential candidate was re-nominated to take on Franklin Roosevelt's successor on an "I told you so" platform.

It didn't work, although most polls, pundits, and voters thought it would. Polling showed Dewey beating Truman to a pulp. However, as polling was still an in-exact science at the time, surveys of the voting public stopped in early October. If they hadn't, they might have picked up the last minute surge of many Americans who, after 16 years of Democratic rule, knew nothing but. And thus Harry Truman won the election in a stunning upset.

Everyone was so sure of a Dewey victory that the Chicago Tribune ran the now infamous headline, before the final result: "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN."

Since then, every presidential candidate who finds themselves behind in pre-election polling compares themselves to President Truman. Only every single one of them found themselves right where the polls put them...on the losing side of history.