The United States presidential election of 1948 was the 41st quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 2, 1948. President Joe Steele was elected to an unprecedented fifth term, defeating his Republican opponent, Governor Harold Stassen of Minnesota. The election came against the backdrop of the Japanese War, which broke out days after Stassen's nomination.
Stassen was unknown outside of Minnesota, and in many ways was a token candidate.
Steele had initially assumed that he would win in a walk, given Stassen's status as an unknown. But with the Japanese War breaking out days after the Republican convention, Steele was forced to campaign hard arguing against changing horses in mid-stream. While the North Japanese had been driving south relentlessly for months, U.S.forces were finally able to regroup and halt the North's advance at Utsunomiya just a few weeks prior to the actual election.
Stassen did somewhat better than expected. He carried Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire and Vermont. In private, Steele's aid Lazar Kagan was horrified by the loss of Maryland, suggesting Steele's machine had broken down there. Stassen was also able to pick up some of the states that contained resettled wreckers.
However, Steele carried the rest of the electoral vote, and won his fifth term.
The wrecker states that Stassen mentions carrying are not mentioned at all in the novel.
The 1948 election is remembered as one of the greatest upsets in American history. Incumbent Harry Truman, who ascended upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, overcame a three-way split in his own Democratic Party (between himself, Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond and Progressive former Vice President Henry Wallace) to be elected in his own right. Alben Barkley was selected as his running mate. Thomas Dewey became the Republican nominee on the strength of his performance in 1944. Dewey came even closer to defeating the far less popular Truman (close enough for the Chicago Tribune to run its infamous headline "Dewey Defeats Truman"), but nonetheless lost the election.
Harold Stassen had made his third bid for the Republican nomination, actually doing reasonably well during the primaries, but losing out at the convention.
- Joe Steele, pg. 354.
- Ibid, pgs. 355-358.
- Ibid., pg. 359.