Harry Truman won an improbable election in 1948 when he upset the Republican nominee, Thomas Dewey. However, his first term did not go as well as many disagreed with his handling of the Korean War and the Cold War. He surprised many when he withdrew from the Democratic ticket after the New Hampshire primary.
This meant that the Democrats would have to find another candidate, which is what they were wanting anyway since Truman's popularity was a liability.
The Republican party had been out of the Oval Office for 20 years, which is the longest they had ever been out of office since Abraham Lincoln was elected in the Election of 1860. They had been surging since the mid-term elections in 1946 and continued that momentum after Truman's election.
The country was at the beginning of a new period and was figuring out how to handle it. The Cold War and containment were the issues of the day, and America was becoming divided.
Republicans nominated Dwight Eisenhower for President, who was tremendously popular and seemed like the perfect candidate to usher in a new era of Republicanism.
The candidates were as follows:
- Republicans: Dwight Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon
- Democrats: Adlai Stevenson and Vice President John Sparkman
The issues of the period were the Korean War, Cold War, Containment, and Civil Rights. Containment was the issue that was the umbrella for all foreign policy decisions, as the United States did not want to allow the spread of Communism to other countries.
Republicans: Eisenhower's popularity was a huge platform. However, how they landed on issues would need to be strategic. The Republicans played the middle and did not support the fringe of the party that favored isolationism and favored a different approach to containment, which would take a more diplomatic role.
Democrats: Stevenson did not campaign on any of Truman's policies and instead went back to FDR and spoke of the New Deal and tried to put fear into the public that the Republicans would bring in a new depression. However, distancing himself from Truman would prove to be hard as the people of the United States were ready for a different party to be in charge.
Dwight Eisenhower would win in a landslide. It was never close throughout the campaign, and he would carry most of the states with the exception of some Democratic strongholds in the south.
The Democrats were unable to separate themselves from Truman's policies, and coupled with Eisenhower's popularity, it was the perfect storm to annihilate the other side.
This would also be the first election to have the results broadcasted on television and the first to have a computer tally the results.
On election day, Eisenhower won a decisive victory, winning over 55% of the popular vote and carrying thirty-nine of the forty-eight states. Stevenson did not win a single state north of the Mason–Dixon line or west of Arkansas, whilst Eisenhower took three Southern states that the Republicans had won only once since Reconstruction: Virginia, Florida, and Texas.