The famous “Dewey defeats Truman” presidential election was 72 years ago and reminders of what was an epic polling failure echo to this day. For pollsters, pundits, and the press, Democrat Harry Truman’s surprise victory over Republican Thomas E. Dewey in 1948 is, or ought to be, an enduring reminder about the perils of extreme overconfidence.
The 1948 election also may offer a lens by which to understand the outcome of the Trump-Biden race. Here’s how:
If Joe Biden blows what has been a solid lead in pre-election polls, his loss may be attributable to having pursued something akin to Dewey’s glide-path campaign that avoided controversy while trying to nurse a clear lead in the polls.
But if this year’s pre-election polling is accurate and Trump is repudiated, his defeat may be attributed to a failure to adapt Truman’s blueprint for winning in spectacular, against-the-odds fashion.
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