THE 30 SECOND CANDIDATE HISTORICAL TIMELINEFROM IDEA TO ADTRICKS OF THE TRADEQ_AND_ATHE TELEVISION PROGRAM
Wisconsin Public Television
     

         
1948  
   
video  

In the election of 1948, incumbent President Harry S. Truman was far behind Republican nominee Thomas Dewey in polls and popular perception. Fifty out of fifty political writers confidently predicted his defeat. But in an aggressive campaign summed up by the legendary phrase "Give 'em Hell, Harry" Truman took to the rails to cross the country on a whistle stop tour. The President traveled over 30,000 miles, speaking in person before, by his own count, more than 15 million people. His election in 1948 ranks as the greatest surprise in American political history, and in some ways served as the last hurrah for a style of campaigning that would become increasingly rare in the television age.

With an enormous lead in the polls, Dewey followed an extremely cautious and inoffensive campaign course, perhaps befitting the famous comment about his bland demeanor that he looked like the "groom on the wedding cake."


Rosser Reeves, the advertiser who would later create the "Eisenhower Answers America" campaign, tried to convince Dewey to film some political commercials. Although there were fewer than a half million televisions in use in 1948, Reeves felt that careful ad placement in key districts could make the difference in a close race. Dewey, not expecting a close race, dismissed the idea as undignified.

   
       
   


Watch a video of the whistle stop tour
Quicktime or RealVideo

Footage used with permission of
Harry S. Truman Library

Read more about Truman's campaign:
http://www.upapubs.com/books/tru14.htm

Explore the Truman Libary's interactive 'Project WhistleStop'
http://www.whistlestop.org/frcheck.htm

Visit the Truman Library Web site:
http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/truman/

For more on Thomas Dewey: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/dewey-thomas-bio.html

   

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