Top positive review
One of the most absorbing books on American politics ever written
Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2015
In 1945, Sen. Harry S Truman was a product of the Kansas City Democratic machine of notorious Boss Tom Pendergast. He had been the obscure Vice President of the United States for 82 days. Suddenly Franklin D. Roosevelt died and this plainspoken little man from Missouri stumbled into the presidency. Truman presided over tumultuous times—Civil Rights, Russian expansionism, Berlin Airlift, China going Communist. He was vilified, sneered at and ridiculed by the media and an obstreperous Republican Congress.
In 1948 Truman was nominated for re-election and his candidacy was considered dead on arrival by every big city newspaper, pundits and pollsters alike. New York Republican Governor Thomas E. Dewey was considered a shoo-in.
In the third week of September, Dewey led Truman by double digits in the polls. At that point, Elmo Roper stopped polling because he believed Dewey’s win was a foregone conclusion.
Truman traveled the entire country by train and made 352 speeches. Often starting a 6:00 a.m. in his pajamas and bathrobe, he would speak to as few as 22 people from the rear of the train. From there he would go on to make up to a dozen more speeches often until midnight. He spoke to 80,000 at the National Plowing Match in Dexter Iowa and 125,000 on Labor Day in Detroit. Millions of Americans saw and heard the President in person during the tour.
Truman’s Secret Weapon
The campaign had a private Research Division of 7 brilliant guys back in Washington. They set up the schedule of stops and then sent a 12-point questionnaire to Democratic officials in the hinterlands. The replies were assembled and flown out to the nearest airport several times a week.
When the President’s train stopped in a new town, he started by acknowledging the most important citizens by name, the politics, history, gossip, industries, problems and local economy. Thereafter he would launch into a blistering attack on the “Do-Nothing Congress” and promise to make the their lives far, far better.
These were not disembodied e-mails from a political headquarters showing up on a computer screen or smartphone. This was the real life President of the United States in person talking directly to YOU about your town, your neighbors, your mayor, your economy, your problems, hopes and dreams.
House speaker Tip O’Neill said, “All Politics is local.” Truman nailed it.
Right up to Election night the pundits, pollsters and papers had him losing to Dewey. The Chicago Tribune was suckered into believing the projections and went to press early with the bogus headline: “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”
If you are thinking of running for office—or are working on a political campaign—for Congress, governor or local office—Philip White has provided you with a wiring diagram for victory. What worked in 1948 will work like gangbusters today.
This is delicious reading—rip-snorting page-turner you won’t be able to put down.
Here is the complete itinerary and transcripts of speeches. http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/1948campaign/large/docs/campaignstops.php
A personal digression. In 1947, my father Alden Hatch was signed by Liberty magazine to write series of articles on all the presidential candidates. He interviewed Republicans Stassen, Taft, Vandenberg and Dewey as well as the President. His final question to each of them was from one poker player to another: “Do you ever draw to an inside straight?” All the Republicans solemnly shook their heads and said “Never.” President Truman broke into huge grin. “Always!” he said.