Thomas E. Dewey – probably not a name that rings a lot of bells these days, but in 1944 and 1948 he was the Republican Candidate for President, running first against Franklin Roosevelt and the second time against Harry S. Truman.
Dewey had risen to prominence in the 1930s and early 40s as a New York city Prosecutor and District Attorney as well as Governor of New York. His tough stance on organized crime and his relentless pursuit of the Mafia in the U.S. won him considerable admiration among voters, particularly in New York.
His run for the Presidential bid became the closest election against FDR of the four times FDR ran and was re-elected to office. His run in 1948 was famous for the iconic photo of Harry Truman holding up the newspaper with a headline proclaiming “Dewey Defeats Truman“. After his second unsuccessful attempt, he put all his efforts in 1952 in helping get Dwight D. Eisenhower elected.
In 1944, Dewey ran a successful campaign against Republican rival Wendell Wilkie, going on to clinch the nomination, the first Presidential nominee to be born in the 20th century and the youngest Republican to run for the White House.
He was defeated by a margin of 45.9% to FDR’s 53.4% and was the strongest showing of the any GOP candidate running against FDR in this, his bid for a fourth term in office.
During the campaign, Dewey nearly included claims that Roosevelt knew ahead of time about the attack on Pearl Harbor; Dewey added, “and instead of being re-elected he should be impeached.” The U.S. military was extremely worried because that would let the Japanese know that the U.S. had broken the Purple code. Army General George C. Marshall made a persistent effort to persuade Dewey not to touch this topic; Dewey eventually yielded.
Here is one of those campaign speeches, as delivered on September 25, 1944.