Tom Dewey seemed to be the perfect candidate… to unseat Harry Truman in 1948. He staged the strongest challenge to FDR’s four electoral victories, losing the election of 1944 by only 3 million votes. Handsome, charismatic, with a silky-smooth baritone delivery, Dewey had the reputation of a no nonsense crime fighter and effective executive. His matter-of-fact style carried him to three terms as New York’s Governor and led to his surprisingly effective campaign against Roosevelt. Harry Truman appeared to be easy prey to Republicans in 1948; Tom Dewey’s time had finally come.
The old Republican guard led by Senator Robert Taft… resented Dewey and considered him weak. Taft and his allies believed Dewey to be far too Liberal to represent the Conservative movement. Dewey had supported parts of the New Deal and continued to advocate increased social spending in New York. To Taft, Dewey’s moderation brought him more in line with Harry Truman than with the Republican base. The party disagreed, passing over Taft yet again in favor of the moderate Dewey. Dewey was a safer candidate- and not tied to the 80th Congress- the only part of government less popular than Truman in 1948.
Dewey and all those advising him believed the polls… in the Summer of 1948. His lead over Truman was so substantial that pollster Elmo Roper refused to take any new surveys that summer- the election appeared to be decided. Dewey played it safe- deciding upon a non-partisan, purposely vague campaign. As Truman took his case to the American people on the famous “whistle stop tour,” Dewey meekly followed speaking only in generalities. The American people were left wondering what Dewey stood for- Truman left little doubt. Dewey’s passive approach allowed Truman to take the election away in our greatest electoral upset.