tv Race for the White House CNN April 1, 2016 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
hero. our cnn series, "race for the white house" starts in just a moment. you are the president nobody wanted. in office by default. now you're the candidate nobody believes in. in a race you're expected to lose. do you have the guts? the political cunning? the sheer determination to prove your enemies wrong? ♪ ♪
>> oh, fdr had been our leader for so long. he was such an effective leader. that it was a terrible blow to the country at large. >> 11-car presidential train departs from the warm springs railroad station. sorrowing throngs line the tracks. >> those of us close to him in the white house could not conceive of the country without him. >> a flag-draped coffin carried on a black caisson. drawn by white horses begins the mournful trip to the white house. >> in washington, there were half a million people in the streets. to greet the cortege. people of all ages, races, backgrounds turned out. many openly weeping.people of a backgrounds turned out. many openly weeping. >> the vice president, harry s. truman, was among the first to learn of roosevelt's passing.
>> word came that grandpa was wanted at the white house immediately. and so grandpa wasn't quite sure what that was for. he was like, okay, i'd better get over there. when he arrived, he was ushered into the family quarters and mrs. roosevelt greeted him and said, "harry, the president is dead." and he said he felt like the sun and the moon and all the stars had fallen. he was floored. my grandfather replied, "is there anything that we can do for you?" question is, is there anything we can do for you, because you're the one who's in trouble now." >> to fill the place left vacant by the sudden death of franklin d. roosevelt, harry s. truman became the 32nd president of the united states. >> franklin delano roosevelt was the great giant who had dominated politics for 12 years, through the depression, through
the second world war, and so truman looks like a little pygmy compared to fdr. >> especially when he opens his mouth. >> we are depending upon each and every one of you. >> he had a terrible speaking style. >> the cause which claimed roosevelt also claims us. >> he had trouble looking down, focusing, picking up the right spot. and he was just generally not good at reading. >> he never faltered. nor will we. >> and he had a habit of chopping the air with his hands, like this. >> peace, my friends, is the goal of my public life. i'd rather have a lasting peace -- >> he looked very robotic and very stiff. >> truman, missouri farm boy turned missouri senator, was a member of roosevelt's administration for just 82 days. the president and the vice
president only met twice. >> roosevelt didn't tell my grandfather much of anything. so he went in cold. >> he didn't even know about the manhattan project. he didn't know about the multibillion-dollar effort to develop a nuclear weapon, an atomic bomb. >> speaking to the press, one of the first things he said was pray for me, boys. if you've ever prayed for anybody, pray for me now. >> he never aspired to be president of the united states. it was i've got this responsibility, i'm going to work hard, i'm going to try to do the right thing, and i trust the american people. it was just that simple. >> americans realize that slums like these can no longer exist. where 10 million of our people still live in squalor and darkness. >> truman made the america's post-war president but there's no peace for him. american veterans are coming home to a land not fit for heroes.
a tidal wave of strikes overwhelms the country. >> the unions called him public enemy number one, because to keep the country moving at all he had to break some enormous strikes. there was inflation. there were housing shortages. there were shortages of meat, eggs, bread. >> people couldn't buy enough gasoline, couldn't buy rubber tires, couldn't buy nylon stockings. i mean, all kinds of sacrifice that people put up with. >> the nation's discontent comes to a head with the congressional elections of 1946. >> the republicans had the simplest, clearest slogan ever. "had enough?" >> the republican-controlled congress takes the helm in the house. the gop now possesses a clear working majority in both
branches of congress. >> after 18 years on the political sidelines, republicans are back in control of congress. >> it's the first time since the depression that the republicans had real power in washington. and they were raring to go. they really wanted blood. >> galvanized, the republicans now target the white house. their candidate is tough, slick and camera-savvy. >> thomas dewey was an incredibly impressive guy. when he was a prosecutor, he went after the former head of the new york stock exchange, he went after lucky luciano. he was an incredibly successful governor of new york who created the state university system. who cut taxes. thomas dewey was a political superstar.
>> in 1944, dewey had run against roosevelt, but nobody beats a popular president in war time. >> now roosevelt is dead and the country holds truman responsible for its economic woes. >> dewey is already seen as a man who can save us, a man who is heroic. >> what's the outlook, governor? >> the outlook is excellent, sir. >> and with the republican congress blocking his policies. truman looks doomed. >> there's a sense that not only is he a lame duck for the country, there's a sense that his party is very disappointed that a man who had been a hack from missouri is now the president. the words that were most common used were incompetent, unappealing, and unelectable. >> is the race for the white house over before it's even begun?
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>> a thousand delegates are crammed into the municipal auditorium to choose the next republican presidential candidate. >> i was 21, almost to be 22. i had just gotten out of the marine corps. i was a republican, mainly because my family had been republicans. there was great fanfare when we came and it was very exciting. >> big, noisy. a lot of music. people running around with placards and banners. it was a mess. >> for the first time in history, they have to make room for television cameras. >> they were so brightly lit that delegates were advised that they might want to bring sunglasses to protect their eyes against the glare of the artificial lights within the convention hall. women had to wear brown lipstick, so that in black and white tv it looked natural.
so you had people walking around with heavy makeup and brown lipstick, in the middle of a convention hall while sweating profusely. >> it was hotter than the dickens in philadelphia. >> the convention will now come to order. >> dewey arrives confident of his party's nomination. but there's a strong challenge from senator robert taft. senate leader, senior conservative and a president's son. >> taft and dewey were natural lifelong and enthusiastic enemies. they were profoundly different men in vision. they were put on the planet to piss each other off. >> dewey has 350 delegate votes in the bag.
but he still needs 200 more. >> preparation was dewey's middle name. dewey made sure that he had a card file on every delegate, who their friends were, who might be in a position to influence them. >> dewey's campaign manager is herbert brownell, a man who will go farther than most to get what he wants. >> he operated to get things done and he had his own style and knew what he was doing. >> brownell's mission, to get delegates to vote for dewey. easy when you know their darkest secrets. >> the taft people, with a touch of paranoia, believed that the vaunted eastern establishment knew your bank accounts. probably who you slept with.
all sorts of things with which to compel you to vote against your interests and your philosophical inclinations. >> brownell targets the uncommitted, making them offers they can't refuse. >> pennsylvania was a huge uncommitted state. guess what? congressman hugh scott from the philadelphia area was named his republican national chairman and dewey got pennsylvania. >> before the evening session opens, frantic conferences continue. >> brownell's tactics prove effective. >> senator bricker with a dramatic message from senator taft, conceding dewey's victory, urging that it be made unanimous. the other candidates follow suit. >> i am profoundly sensible of the responsibility that goes with this nomination. in all humility i accept the nomination. >> dewey was an excellent speaker. and he did a wonderful job
explaining what the whole concept of the republican party and what his cause was. >> we must solve the problem of establishing a just and lasting peace in the world and of securing to our own and other like-minded people the blessings of freedom and of individual opportunity. >> dewey chooses as his running mate california governor earl warren. >> talk about a dream ticket. the governors of new york and california. >> i was confident that that was an absolute top winning team in the country deserved it and it knew it and it was going to elect him. >> three weeks later the democratic convention comes to philadelphia. >> the donkey replaces the
republican elephant. it's the democrats' turn now and the city of brotherly love considers president truman's nomination a foregone conclusion. >> as a sitting president, truman's nomination is secure. but his party is sure he'll lose the election. >> people smell defeat. and they thought truman was headed to defeat. >> truman won't attend the convention until the very last day. but stays glued to the television. >> the time has arrived in america for the democratic party to get out of the shadows of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights. >> rising star hubert humphrey electrifies the convention. he urges the democrats to support the burgeoning civil rights movement. >> 172 years late. >> i was 22 years old. he gave that speech with such
enthusiasm and such vibrancy. i was enchanted by it. >> and we courageously support our president and leader harry truman in his great fight for civil rights for america. >> truman knows civil rights is a powder keg issue for the democratic party. >> the response of the southern delegates in the hall was just outrage. they start booing, they throw off their hats in anger. they throw down their signs. >> mr. chairman, we bid you good-bye. >> it was very personal almost to us. sitting right there in front of him. and it was very dramatic. >> truman's horrified as the southern democrats walk out of the convention. defeat in november is looming. >> but even as the bolting
delegates call good-bye, harry, harry truman is preparing to leave washington aboard a special train for philadelphia to accept the nomination. >> truman's got no margin for error. he's faced with the prospect of losing some states that are traditionally democratic states. he's got to find some way to tend to his party. the all-new audi a4, with available virtual cockpit. ♪usic: "sex machine" by james brown ♪ ♪ ♪ because you can't beat zero heartburn! i take prilosec otc each morning for my frequent heartburn
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at the left window to the left of the door, you can see the back of mr. truman's head. >> in just a few hours, in front of his party and a television audience, truman will be fighting for his political life. >> this convention address would be the first truly national address where it would be listened to by everybody in the country, so we were very nervous about it. >> accompanying truman to philadelphia is his team of speech writers, including george elsie. >> all of us who were on the train with him worked with him. he would sit with all of us, and read aloud or talk aloud and ask for our suggestions. >> the only thing between truman
and defeat is this one speech. >> we would not give him texts with long paragraphs and that sort of thing. they were more like a series of topic sentences with large spaces in between. >> we wanted truman to talk to the people in their own terms. not make a formal top-down speech. >> here we are, the presidential car coming right up now. president on this side waving to us. >> truman doesn't actually ascend to the podium to give a speech till nearly 2:00 a.m. in the morning. so people are tired. they're hot. >> everyone was sweating, everyone was wanting to get out of the damn place as soon as possible.
>> and i can remember him striding up on the platform in that white suit. which was a little bit droopy at the time., which was a little bit droopy at the tim which was a little bit droopy at the timwhich was a little bit droopy at the tim which was a little bit droopy at the timthe time the time. >> it was a tough situation to get up and try to persuade a large audience to listen closely to what you have to say. nearly everything was hanging on his speech. >> thank you, thank you very much. >> things start badly. >> i can't, i have to have them up where i can see. >> people can't see the president. they begin to heckle. >> we were very, very nervous. on the edge of our seats. >> i'm sorry that the microphones are in your way, but they have to be where they are
because i've got to be able to see what i'm doing. >> truman plows ahead, rallying for the party to unite. >> there have been differences of opinion, and that's the democratic way. now it's time for to us get together and beat the common enemy. >> he went at it with a strong, vigorous manner. >> i'll win this election and make these republicans like it, don't you forget that. >> we'll do that because they're wrong and we're right and i'll prove it to you in just a few minutes. >> i thought he did exceedingly well. i thought it was a superb, for him, a superb performance. and the way it was accepted and received by the convention showed that it was the right approach, the right manner. >> oh, everybody stood up and applauded.
he just electrified the audience, coming in at that time of night and giving that speech, yes. >> finally, his ace card. an attack on the republican congress. >> our republicans came here a few weeks ago. and they wrote up a platform. >> truman accuses congress of hypocrisy. just months before, republicans blocked truman's legislation intended to revive the economy. now the same measures are part of the republican election platform. >> they promised to do in that platform a lot of things i've been asking them to do and that they've refused to do when they had the power. >> he says, look, the republican congress has prevented me as president from doing all these things that we think we should be doing as democrats. it's not my fault as a president. it's their fault. >> they were in charge in
congress and if they had america's best interests at heart, why weren't they doing something? why weren't they fixing anything? why were they intent on actually accomplishing nothing? >> truman throws down the gauntlet. >> i am therefore calling this congress back into session on the 26th of july. i'm going to call that congress back and i'm going to ask them to pass laws halting rising prices. and to meet the housing crisis, which they say they're for in their platform. >> here's your platform, we can't wait until after the election. let's pass it now. it is possibly the greatest call to put up or shut up in american political history.
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legislators hurry back to washington for the special session of congress that president truman called at the democratic convention. >> if the republican congress refused to pass legislation aimed at boosting the economy, truman hopes it will prove to the american people that the republicans can't be trusted. >> lots of action by this government is long overdue. it must be taken now. >> he looked strong, he looked like he was in command. he looked like he was seizing the agenda. and i think that particularly coming in post-roosevelt that had sort of eluded him. >> our people need legislation now. >> congress blocks the call for action. truman's plan is working. >> they sit for 11 days and that's basically -- that describes what they do. they passed no legislation of consequence. >> harry truman put the blame where he thought it should go. which is a congress that is doing nothing. so he called it the do-nothing congress. it was an effective message. >> he turned the tables. he had very much been on the
political defensive domestically, anyway. so that was a very forceful way to take command. >> truman's tactics have damaged republicans in congress. but governor dewey is unaffected. >> dewey's team make a campaign film to be shown in movie theaters around the country. >> he's the product of a small town in the middle west. having been born over a general store in owasso, michigan in 1902. >> scheduled for an october release, it's a real hollywood production with thomas dewey as the lead. >> if you were going to cast someone in a movie as a presidential candidate, he's the guy. >> tom dewey likes to take whatever time can he from his busy public life to spend with his two boys, tom junior and
john. >> dewey is promising america a fresh start. >> they took a poll of the 50 most respected journalists that wrote about politics in america and asked them about who was going to win, dewey or truman. it was 50-0 for dewey. not one journalist predicted that harry truman would win. >> we recognized he was relatively unknown to the american people, and he would have one heck of a chance of winning the election. >> truman needs to get out of washington and meet the doubters. >> september 14th, 1948, truman's campaign train pulls out of union station. >> truman's journey takes him through the midwest where he trails dewey by as many as 11 points. >> part of the strategy of the whistle stop is to go to parts of the country that had in fact leaned republican for the past year. >> first stop, dexter, iowa, where gallup polls give dewey 48% of the farmer's vote and truman just 38.
>> to him, farmers were the lifeblood of the country and he wanted them to know it. and he was going to be on their side. >> most of these people never left the little town they grew up in. to have a president of the united states arrive on a train and step out and talk to them? it's a huge deal. we can't even understand how big it was. >> truman isn't the only candidate after the hearts and minds of americans. dewey is on a train as well. >> the gop wheelhorse is out to entice the voters, announced the democrats after 16 years. >> the dewey train was a model of efficiency. it was a reflection of the man himself. >> only at intervals can the governor and mrs. dewey relax. at every station, voters have been demanding glimpses of the fast-moving gop head man.
>> he would come, he would wave, he would smile, he would make his speech, never departed from script. >> i pledge to you an administration which will know how to work with the elected representative of the people. >> truman and dewey's trains criss-crossed the country, eating up the miles in search of votes. >> and when truman pulls in to town, he turns on the folksy charm. >> he came from his quarters inside the train, stepped on a platform at the back and spoke. >> i'm coming out here so you can look at me. and hear what i have to say and make up your own minds as to whether you believe some of the same things that have been said about your president. >> he was likable.
up close he was likable. >> i suppose you'd like to meet my family. >> he involved mrs. truman and daughter margaret. every way possible. introducing them as the boss. and margaret as the boss's boss. and they would grin and wave. it was fun. >> there you have it. >> meanwhile, back on the victory special, dewey is sticking to the script. >> his speeches became so full of empty bromides and just silly nonsense, saying things like your future is bright, very bright indeed. >> the unity we need for the nation will be practiced in the nation's capital. >> they were empty and
meaningless. >> the peace of the world will only be secure when the forces on the side of peace are stronger than the forces on the side of evil. >> it was hard to really disagree with anything dewey said. who could be against peace and prosperity and working together? >> dewey is playing it safe, and why not? he's still way ahead in the polls. time is running out for harry truman. h. let's have a few bud lights and focus on what unites us all. three weeks of non-stop basketball. yes! no! enough attack ads and name calling... yes, that was a foul you jerkface! yes! duracell quantum lasts longer so kevin jorgeson can power through the night. sfx: duracell slamtones
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two months until the election and truman still trails dewey. >> i've been in politics a long time. it makes no difference what they say about you if it isn't so. >> but behind his folksiness truman's playing a shrewd political game. >> behind the scenes this spontaneous man of the people had a team of researchers who had studied every single place that truman stopped and provided briefings.
>> democratic headquarters send daily briefings back to the train. >> at every town, every place he was going to stop, we had three or four pages of information that truman could look at, grasp quickly and be ready to talk directly to that community. >> when he got out there. he knew who the people were in town that had done well. he knew what democrats were running for what office and how to mention them. he knew that the high school football team had done really well. he knew that they just built a new bridge. >> in austin a big crowd meets the president as he continues his campaign for the lone star state's 23 electoral votes. >> there were four or five or six issues very much in the forefront of people's minds and he was going to do something about them. oh, it was truly extraordinary. >> the gap is closing between truman and dewey, but not quickly enough. >> i could tell from the crowds
and newspapers and so on that he was steadily gaining. but quite frankly, i did not think we had time to do it. >> president truman continues his all-out bid for re-election. >> truman wraps up the offensive. >> he hits below the belt. >> the republican ideal, as i have seen it in action, is summed up in one phrase -- big business first. >> he comes and says the republicans are fat cats. they're in the pocket of wall street. they don't care about you, the farmer. they don't care about you, the worker. >> harry truman talked a lot about the worker and about the people who put in a hard day's work, not the fancy folks that are having fancy dinners and running wall street. those are dewey's folks. they're the ones the republicans are going to take care of. implicit in that is i'm the one who's going to take care of you. >> give the republicans complete control of this government and
we'll start on a boom-and-bust cycle and try to go just what we did in the '20s and end up with a crash. >> he built an alliance with the american people against an unpopular congress. basically i'm enlisting you to take on this do-nothing congress. >> this congress has not done anything for the country. >> it worked beautifully. and he really began to rise in the esteem of the american people as kind of a fighter. and i don't think people had that image of him before. >> president truman carrying his fight for a continuance of democratic rule in southern california is hailed by thousands in los angeles' gilmore stadium. >> by mid october, truman's climbing the polls. there's now just five points between him and dewey. >> i thought at the last minute, by gosh, if we only had two more weeks, i think he could put it over. >> governor dewey moves into --
>> dewey knew he was slipping. he sensed just in the crowds a lack of enthusiasm. your crowds are supposed to get more enthusiastic as you get closer to election day. and the opposite was the case with the victory special. >> october 18th, two weeks before the election. dewey's train pulls into new york city. >> when he got back to albany in the executive mansion, he asked to have newsreels from the last couple weeks of the campaign shown to him. sitting there in the dark room, he watched the crowds. and he looked at the faces in the crowds. and he came away confirmed in his belief that there was a spark missing.
>> a week later, speaking in chicago, truman's attack goes one step too far. >> what are these forces that threaten our way of life? who are the men behind them? >> truman compares the republican backers of dewey to the shadowy financiers who backed hitler during world war ii. >> three years after the war, he's describing the republicans as fascists, it's that unbelievable. >> each of these two groups of men working through the republican party, if you please, is a serious threat to the future welfare of this great nation. >> that is an incredible charge to make against the republican candidate for president of the united states. coming from the democratic president of the united states. >> dewey sensed an opening. an opportunity.
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♪ truman's outlandish attack on thomas dewey gives the republican candidate a chance to hit back. >> he had a speech written. it would have rained the truman administration for all of its perceived failings and simultaneously made the case for why voters should replace a failed president with a new president. >> dewey's used aggressive campaigning before but it backfired. >> dewey, when he ran in 1944, was widely accused of being too negative and too harsh in his attacks on roosevelt. >> so instead of doing what instinct told him, he took a poll. he polled all 50 members of the republican national committee and virtually unanimously back came the response -- >> don't create a ripple. don't undo what you've got. and don't upset the apple cart.
>> dewey's wife and his friends from home keep saying, oh, no. you've got to be presidential. you've got to be presidential. don't attack. you're fine. >> the polls back this up. dewey is set for the white house. election day. "the new york times" predicts a dewey victory with 345 electoral votes. >> dewey and mrs. dewey went to vote at a school nearby. he doffed his hat, smiled, and walked six blocks back to the hotel where he had a suite. the republicans expected there would be a presidential concession before 9:00 that
evening. >> truman goes back to missouri to await the results and disappears. >> it is so harry truman. he sneaks out, literally sneaks out of the house, and goes with just a couple of secret service agents way up to excelsior springs, which is north of kansas city. has a ham and cheese sandwich and a glass of buttermilk and goes to bed on the night of the election. >> while truman sleeps, the campaign teams do the math. >> by 3:00, 4:00 in the morning it was all coming down to california and ohio. >> with ohio's 25 electoral
votes, president truman will have a total of 266 votes in the electoral college. this is the minimum figure necessary for victory. the democratic party has returned victorious. president truman, the elected president. >> truman has achieved the unthinkable. he's won the race for the white house. and he doesn't even know it. >> truman's asleep. the secret service man wakes him up. little knock on the door at 4:00 a.m. says, mr. president, it looks like you've won the presidency. and truman invites the man in, shares a glass of whiskey with him, and then gets dressed, shaves, and leaves the hotel. >> dewey walked out in the hall outside the suite and noticed the secret service protection had faded away into the night along with his chances to be president. and saw someone there and just made the observation "the son of a bitch won."
>> governor thomas e. dewey today conceded the presidential election to president truman. >> i sent a wire to president truman, my hardiest congratulations to you on your election and every good wish for a successful administration. >> it was one of those things i can remember just like when john kennedy was shot. you just couldn't believe what had happened. >> i don't think there has ever been a bigger shock than when the vote came in. >> no question the media was shocked. but i'm not sure. obviously america couldn't have been too shocked. they voted. >> so the morning comes and truman has won. the first thing he has to do is get back to washington. and he takes his train back. and in st. louis someone comes on the train and hands truman the newspaper. the "chicago tribune" printed the headline "dewey defeats truman."
>> the american people have given truman a landslide victory. 343 electoral votes to dewey's 189. >> i knew he was gaining. i thought he was close to it. but i did not really expect him to win. and so i was just excited as anybody else when he actually did. >> at the end of the day it shows that it's not up to the experts. it's not up to the reporters. it's not up to the pundits. it's not up to the pollsters. it's up to the american people. >> i will say to you that i expect to work just as hard as i have at the job upstate, do it to the best of my ability. >> ever since that day in every single presidential election one candidate has said, "i'm going to fight like truman and give
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