By Graham Earnshaw
WASHINGTON, Oct 26, Reuter – Could the political upset of 1948 be repeated in 1988?
Veterans of the 1948 U.S. presidential election gathered on Wednesday to re-live Harry Truman’s miraculous victory, and many said Michael Dukakis could still repeat the trick.
Forty years ago, Democratic candidate Truman was behind in the polls and given little chance of winning, but on the day, he beat the complacent Republican candidate, Thomas Dewey, hands down.
This year, Democrat Dukakis is behind Vice President George Bush in the polls and praying for the same miracle.
“There are a great many differences, but I would think there was still the opportunity for a surge of strength for Governor Dukakis,” said former Secretary of Defence Clark Clifford, who served as an aide to Truman from 1945 to 1950.
Bush has made much political mileage out of the charge that Dukakis is a liberal, but lawyer Joseph Rauh, who fought in 1948 to get civil rights for blacks accepted by the Democratic Party, said Dukakis should meet the charge head on.
“If he does what Truman did, I think he still has a chance,” he said.
“Truman said, ‘I’m a liberal Democrat and proud of it,’ told what he was for and came up the winner. I think Dukakis could still do that. Unfortunately he’s painted himself into a corner with his ‘I’m not a liberal’ talk,” Rauh added.
Political pollster Burns Roper, doing his first election in 1948, stopped polling three weeks before the election saying Dewey was so far ahead, the result was a foregone conclusion. He was forced to eat his words when the result was announced.
“It was like watching your mother-in-law driving your new Lincoln over a cliff,” he said, remembering the moment.
Truman’s campaign advance man Donald Dawson said he saw few parallels between the two elections, but added: “The polls weren’t accurate then; they may not be accurate now.” REUTER GE JE NNNN