Reshaped Race in Iowa; Et Tu, Jeb? RNC Penalizes NBC; Truman and the Trib

Story Stream
recent articles

Good morning, it’s Monday, November 2, 2015, the birthday of two U.S. presidents, James K. Polk and Warren G. Harding.

Halloween has come and gone. Ditto for the World Series. Congratulations to the Kansas City Royals and to the entire K.C. area -- on the Kansas and Missouri sides of the river. That region has really embraced its team, a love that has been requited and now rewarded.

As for the New York Mets and their fans, they can take solace in a roster with a core group of young stars who are surely thinking this morning, “Wait ’til next year!”

Sixty-seven years ago today, a Kansas City-area team also bested a New York team, this time in politics, when Democratic incumbent Harry Truman repelled the presidential bid of Republican challenger Thomas Dewey.

I’ll have an observation about the 1948 presidential campaign in a moment, after directing you to RCP’s front page, which contains the latest poll averages, political news and video, and aggregated opinion pieces ranging across the ideological spectrum. We also have a complement of original material from RCP’s reporters and contributors, which I’ll tout as well.

First, as loyal readers of this morning missive, you’re invited to help us celebrate the launch of RealClearHealth. The launch event will feature a discussion of Medicare quality of care programs and will take place at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, November 5 from noon to 2 p.m. Learn more and RSVP here.

*          *          *

New Dynamics Shaping GOP Race in Iowa. Caitlin Huey-Burns reports on the shifting climate in the first-voting state following last week’s debate. Caitlin and RCP’s John Dillon also filed this video report from the Hawkeye State.

Et Tu, Jeb? In a column, I question Jeb Bush’s decision to attack fellow Floridian Marco Rubio on that Colorado stage.

Debate Complaints Lead RNC to Suspend NBC Role. Rebecca Berg has the story.

Forget the Critics -- Bipartisanship Still Matters. Jon Huntsman and Joe Lieberman hail last month’s plea from Joe Biden, who echoed the call championed by the No Labels organization.

How Bush Can Manage a Comeback. In RealClearMarkets, Louis Woodhill advises the embattled candidate to re-emphasize his message of 4 percent economic growth.

Burwell Kicks Off Obamacare Open Enrollment. RealClearHealth editor Karl Eisenhower has the details.

Our Data on Poverty May Be Completely Wrong. In RealClearPolicy, Angela Rachidi spotlights a new study.

A Failure of Strategic Thinking in the Middle East. In RealClearDefense, Mike Nelson faults the U.S. for not aligning its goals with appropriate means to achieve them.

Why Psychology and Statistics Are Not Science. Alex Berezow expands upon his previous assertions in RealClearScience.

*          *          *

“DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” is certainly the most famous headline in Chicago Tribune history. This is unfortunate for “the Trib,” which was hardly the only newspaper in the country to get the 1948 election wrong in its earliest editions. But it was by a bit more than coincidence that the headline earned the notoriety it did.

The paper in those years was run by a former World War I combat officer named Robert R. McCormick. The colonel, as he was always called, did some good things with the Chicago Tribune, including adding advice columnists, developing locally produced comic strips, and spending impressive sums of money covering Washington and the world. In 1919, the paper scored an international scoop by obtaining the text of the Versailles Treaty.

Its best days did not come during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, however. An ardent Republican and free market devotee, McCormick positioned his paper’s editorial page against the New Deal.

Did this attitude spill over into its news coverage? FDR thought so. When the Trib ran a piece in June 1942 reporting that the U.S. had broken the Japanese naval codes, FDR had to be talked out of closing the paper down. In the end, the scoop didn’t hurt national security because the Japanese didn’t believe the story: They assumed that if it were true, American authorities would never have allowed it to be published. In so doing, the enemy underestimated the power of the press -- and overestimated the power of the U.S. government to control it.

All this history came into play in the first election after FDR’s death.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Tribune editorial pages had described Harry Truman as a “nincompoop” on the night of November 2, 1948, the paper’s editors -- along with those at every other morning paper in the country -- had to conjure up its following-day headline.

The latest Gallup Polls foretold a Dewey victory. In Chicago, labor strife between the Tribune and its printers’ union was forcing the paper to make a decision on a headline hours before the usual time. As contemporary Tribune reporter Tim Jones notes, managing editor J. Loy “Pat” Maloney had to make the call for the paper’s out-of-town editions. The tallies from the West Coast were not in yet; even some of the East Coast election returns had not been received. Maloney sought the counsel of Arthur Sears Henning, the paper’s veteran Washington correspondent.

“Dewey,” Henning said.

Henning was rarely wrong, wrote Tim Jones, but the D.C. bureau chief was wrong this time -- as was Gallup -- and spectacularly so. After printing 150,000 papers with the wrong winner, radio bulletins and wire reports began filtering into the Tribune newsroom: The race was close. Truman was winning Illinois, and running strongly elsewhere in the Midwest.

Although the Trib changed its second edition headline to read “DEMOCRATS MAKE SWEEP OF STATE OFFICES,” the damage to its reputation had been done.

Two days later, at a rail stop in St. Louis en route from his Missouri home to the nation’s capital, Truman was handed a copy of the infamous early edition. It didn’t break Truman’s heart that the administration’s old nemesis had been caught with his pants down, and a grinning president held up the paper for the photographers to see. They didn’t miss the shot.

In a line that should be posted in every newsroom in America, not to mention Donald Trump’s executive suite, radio comedian Fred Allen quipped later that Harry Truman was the “first president to lose in a Gallup and win in a walk.”

Carl M. Cannon         
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

Show commentsHide Comments