President Truman Delivers Post-Election Speech, November 4th 1948
After one hectic election season, the nation was left with one heck of an outcome. Starting with Henry Wallace, the Progressive candidate had won 24 Electoral Votes: succeeding in his mission to form the foundation of a new political party. The former vice president conceded at about four in the morning, yet did not state any preference as to who should be crowned the winner.
In his short address, Wallace stated, “We have won a great victory for all those who seek a peaceful resolution in our present climate.” As zero pollsters predicted Wallace would come close to winning a single vote in the Electoral College, this was indeed some accomplishment. The third party contender went on to thank his supporters and proclaim that the new Progressive Party was now set in motion to be a driving force in politics.
President Truman had gone to bed early on November 2nd with the expectation of waking up to a resounding loss. Aforementioned polling put Truman at an average of 110 Electoral Votes. Pundits expected a landslide, and instead got a near-tie in the Electoral Vote. It all came down to two states, and had Truman won both, he would have been the one elected.
The president woke up every few hours to check on the status of the voting, and ended up with a case of insomnia upon learning that he had won California. “We had been tallying, crunching and rounding up the numbers for hours,” Matthew J. Connelly later admitted. “After California we kind of stopped in our tracks and just listened to NBC.” Truman’s Press Secretary, Charles Ross, did not provide any meaningful commentary on the circumstances of the vote. Years later it was revealed that, at this very moment, Truman's campaign team considered contesting the results in Ohio in the immediate aftermath of the election. For now, the Democratic camp remained silent.
Thomas Dewey, likely expecting to have been declared the winner of the election, spoke briefly to reporters upon exiting New York’s Roosevelt Hotel early Wednesday morning. The governor explained, “As a practitioner of law, I can only express what the Constitution instructs. It is in my personal view that the victor of the national Popular Vote be decidedly elected, but we must now place our trust in Congress to follow the will of the voters.” The morning arrived with Truman at 253 and Dewey at 254: a virtual tie. As had only occurred a select few times in American history, Congress would decide the incoming members of the Executive Branch.
While the nation eagerly, albeit with a sense of unrest, waited for finalized results of the election to come through, the campaigns frantically organized to skew the chances in their favor. The task would fall to the newly elected Congress to vote for the new leaders of the nation. Basically overnight, the empty schedules of incumbent and newly elected Congressional representatives filled to the brim with meetings with campaign leaders. These members of the House were not explicitly bound to support the Electoral nor Popular Votes, meaning either candidate had a good shot of winning.
President Truman announced during a televised address that when the newly-elected 81st Congress is called into session on January 3rd, following the certification of the Electoral College votes, the House shall immediately vote for the new president and the Senate shall vote for the vice president. Truman relented, “I would be telling a great fib if I were to insinuate that I do not wish to be elected. I am, too, certainly concerned regarding voting irregularities in states won with a fraction-of-a-percent by either Governor Dewey or myself. Democracy is messy, yes we've known this. Thankfully, this is not the first contested election in our history, and likely not our last."
"And we have a Congress now, and I am sure we will make some progress in the next 4 years regardless of these results." Harry S. Truman