Truman and Trump, surveys gone sour

By: Ramon J. Farolan - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | February 28,2022 - 08:00 AM

Some notes on Philippine National Police chief and Balesin: Retired Brig. Gen. Manuel Oxales made the observation that the unfortunate crash of a PNP chopper in Real, Quezon, on its way to fetch PNP chief Dionardo Carlos from “private time” spent in Balesin, left one policeman dead, two seriously injured, and a $5- million Airbus helicopter totally damaged. The accident would have been acceptable if the chief was visiting election hot spots. Sen. Ping Lacson said: “… assuming that the event was a personal thing, he should not have used the resources of the PNP.” On the other hand, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año defended Carlos, saying that he was entitled to the privilege of being picked up by the police helicopter to bring him back to Camp Crame.

For private time in public life, prudence dictates private pickup.

As we move into the last two months before our presidential election in May, I cannot help but recall what has long been considered the greatest upset in American presidential elections. For those not too familiar with the event, allow me to provide a few interesting details about this particular election, mostly from the book “Truman” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough.

In the 1948 US presidential election, President Harry Truman was running for the presidency for the first time. His Republican opponent was New York Governor Thomas Dewey, who was making his second attempt to win the White House. In 1944, Dewey lost to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. There were two other presidential candidates in the elections. One was Governor Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who led a splinter group of southern Democrats calling themselves “Dixiecrats.” His platform aimed for the ”segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race.” The other was former commerce secretary Henry Wallace, who ran under the banner of the Progressive Party with a lot of communist support.

In a letter to his sister, Truman described the campaign as “the greatest campaign any president ever made. Win, lose, or draw, people will know where I stand.” Using a railroad car dubbed the “Ferdinand Magellan,” the only private railroad car ever fitted out for the exclusive use of the president of the United States, Truman traveled some 22,000 miles, almost as far as the voyage of Magellan, going cross-country to the Pacific coast, touring the midwest, and then hitting the population centers in the northeast, in what became famous as the “whistlestop campaign.”

Dewey’s campaign train was known as the “Dewey Victory Special,” and the dominating strategy was to say as little as possible. “When you’re leading, don’t talk,” he would tell GOP politicians. The thing to do was not to stir up any controversy. By the way, less talk, less mistake was the winning strategy of former president Joseph Estrada who avoided most of the presidential debates in 1998. At the start of the campaign, a poll survey report showed Dewey leading Truman by a resounding 51 percent to 37 percent. An Elmo Roper poll—a widely respected outfit sampling public opinion—showed Dewey leading by an unbeatable 44 percent to 31 percent. The organization decided to discontinue further polling since “the outcome was already so obvious.” Three weeks before election day, a poll of 50 highly-regarded political writers was taken on who they thought would win the election. The vote was unanimous—50 for Dewey, 0 for Truman. Among professional gamblers, the betting odds against Truman were 15-to-one, sometimes 30-to-one.

In the end, “The Man from Missouri” defeated Thomas Dewey by more than two million votes. Truman polled 24,105,812 to Dewey’s 21,970,065. Truman carried 28 states with a total of 303 electoral college votes, while Dewey won in 16 states with 189 electoral college votes. One of the most famous pictures to come out of the campaign was that of President Truman holding aloft a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.” Perhaps, First Lady Bess Truman said it all when she returned to the White House and told the staff, “it looks like you’re going to have to put up with us for another four years.”

“Give ‘em hell” Harry Truman proved the pollsters wrong.

Most recently, in the 2016 US presidential election, just two days before the polls opened, surveys and statisticians predicted a Clinton win. She did win in the popular vote count but lost in the all-important electoral college contest that gave the world Donald Trump.

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TAGS: Clinton, Dewey Victory Special, Harry Truman, Truman, Trump, US presidential elections

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