President-elect Harry S. Truman laughs heartily as he holds an early edition of the Chicago Tribune for November 4, 1948, with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” The newspaper, whose headline jumped to an erroneous conclusion as early election returns came in, was shown to Truman as he stopped in St. Louis, Missouri, during his victorious return trip to Washington, D.C. File photo UPI. | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 1948 (UPI) -- Governor Thomas E. Dewey conceded today that President Truman had been elected in the closest presidential race in 32 years.
It was perhaps the greatest upset in American political history. Truman had been given no chance in pre-election polls and forecasts. But he seized the lead with the first returns last night and never lost it.
He swept a Democratic Congress into office with him. Republicans have lost control of both the House and Senate.
Dewey, who had been mulling over cabinet selections and preparing to move to Washington in January, gave up shortly after 11 a.m. today.
In a crowded suite at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York James Hagerty, Dewey's press secretary, called in reporters and said:
"The governor has just sent the following telegram:
"'My heartiest congratulations on your election and every good wish for a successful administration. I urge all Americans to unite behind you in support of every effort to keep our nation strong and free and to establish peace in the world.'"
Democrats already had claimed the victory. Senator J. Howard McGrath, Democratic national chairman, walked into party headquarters at the Biltmore Hotel in New York and said it was all over.
He said Ohio's 25 electoral votes had turned the trick, and Hagerty agreed.
"We were waiting for Ohio and Illinois before making our decision," Hagerty said. "When the results were conclusive, the governor made his decision."
Truman was in Kansas City when the news went burning across the wires that his opponent had given up. A wide smile was on his face as people crowded into his hotel suite to congratulate him.
He had reason to smile. He had pulled off the political miracle of the Century.
Truman insisted right up to election day that the polls and the forecasts were wrong. He said the pollsters would be red-faced after the election. He had something there.
There has been nothing like this in American politics since the night in 1916 when Charles Evans Hughes went to bed thinking he had been elected president of the United States. He woke up next day to learn that Woodrow Wilson had won California and the presidency.
For Dewey, it probably was the end of the political road. He made his first run for the presidency against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 and lost. But that was in the midst of a world war when the voters were reluctant to vote a leadership out of office.
This time, the Republicans said, it was going to be different. Dewey's well organized political team swept him into the Republican nomination at Philadelphia. From that moment he became the favorite of the pollsters and experts. Apparently, it never occurred to either Dewey or the men around him that he could lose.
That is, it didn't occur to them until some time in the cold, gray dawn of today.
The governor had gone to bed at 8:30 a.m. after 12 hours of steady studying of the returns. At that time the issue still was in doubt, although chills were beginning to run up and down Republican spines.
States with big electoral votes wavered between the Democratic and Republican columns early today. But never did Dewey start cutting heavily into Truman's lead. And that was what he had to do to win.
The clock crawled on at the Dewey headquarters in the Roosevelt Hotel. The news changed by the minute. All eyes were on Ohio, California, Illinois and a couple of other big states. First Truman led in California. Then a thrill of hope went through the Republican s when Dewey seized the lead in California. Minutes later it disappeared when Truman again forged into the front in the California returns.
But Ohio was the pay-off.
When the news got around that Truman led in Ohio by 16,000 votes with only about 200 polling precincts still missing, the Republicans gave up.
None of Dewey's staff knew what his plans for the immediate future would be, but indications were that he would leave New York City as soon as possible. It was a toss-up whether he would go back to Albany right away or take a few days' rest at his farm outside Pawling, N.Y.
After analyzing the varied reasons for his defeat, Dewey probably will turn his full attention to his continuing role as governor of New York state. His gubernatorial term has two years to run.
The announcement came a little while after all the television equipment was removed from the hotel and most of the motion picture equipment was removed.
Hagerty said "the governor called Gov. Earl Warren in California before sending the telegram." Hagerty said he merely informed Warren of the action he was going to take.
Thus broke up one of the best organized political teams put together in many years.
For months the American public heard and read about the celebrated "Dewey team" which committed few political errors and which was committed to the cause of competence in government.
But the team which looked so powerful, so polished at the Philadelphia Republican Convention looked anything but that in the dreary early morning hours of today.