The Election of 1948
By Matthew Pinsker
“With his own party in shambles and the Republicans united behind Dewey, Truman appeared to lack even a prayer for victory.” (H.W. Brands, American Dreams, p. 43)
Richard E. Neustadt, age 79, retired Harvard University professor who worked in the Bureau of the Budget during the late 1940s and served as a junior speechwriter during the 1948 presidential campaign
–Audio recording, Cambridge, MA, September 14, 2002
–Email, September 20, 2002
[NOTE: For illustration purposes ONLY; this was not an actual interview, but has been reconstructed based on recollections of conversations and should not be quoted or used as scholarship]
Q. What was the funniest thing that happened to you during the campaign?
A. I was supposed to find local color for the different speeches, and feed the stuff to [Jonathan] Daniels, who then turned it into talking points, which the president then would, that he would turn into a kind of impromptu speech. There were hundreds of them. I contributed material to dozens at least, and sometimes things got pretty harried. I remember once when I got a little confused over the party affiliation of a mayor in a little town in Nebraska. It turns out he was a Republican, but I had Truman calling him the greatest New Dealer since FDR. [Clark] Clifford looked like a ghost, but the prez didn’t seem to care. That kind of stuff just happened. It was pretty chaotic.”
Q. Did everybody seem anxious about the polls and how far behind President Truman seemed to be in the contest against Dewey?
A. “Well, I sure as hell was, and so were some of the others, but I’ll tell you, not Truman. The President knew he was going to win, and didn’t care if he said the wrong thing occasionally or botched a name here and there. He was confident –almost cocky. It was really something to behold. I never saw a candidate so sure of himself.”
- John R. Doe, “Interpreting the 1948 Election,” American Historical Journal 22 (July 1980): 220-245 [JSTOR].
- Harold I. Gullan, The Upset That Wasn’t: Harry S Truman and the Crucial Election of 1948 (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1998).