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Presidential Election, 1944 (Big Chief in the White House)

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‹ 1940 Flag of the United States 1948 › ›
United States presidential election, 1944
November 7, 1944
Douglas MacArthur FDR in 1933
Nominee Douglas MacArthur Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Party Republican Democratic
Home state New York New York
Running mate John Bricker Harry S. Truman
Electoral vote 283 248
States carried 22 26
Popular vote 23,524,483 23,868,207
Percentage 49.4% 50.1%
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Roosevelt/Truman, Red denotes those won by MacArthur/Brickner. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.
President before election
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Elected President
Douglas MacArthur

The United States presidential election of 1944 took place while the United States was preoccupied with fighting World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) had been in office longer than any other president, but remained popular. Unlike 1940, there was little doubt that Roosevelt would run for another term as the Democratic candidate. His Republican opponent in 1944 was General Douglas MacArthur. Despite the release of numerous scandals, and MacArthur being forced to campaign through interviews and film, feelings of overconfidence and failures within the Roosevelt campaign allowed him to score an upset victory in the electoral college.


Republican Party

Republican Candidates

  • Businessman Riley A. Bender of Illinois
  • Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York
  • Representative Everett Dirksen of Illinois
  • General Douglas MacArthur of New York
  • Former Governor Harold Stassen of Minnesota
  • Senator Robert Taft of Ohio
  • Businessman and 1940 nominee Wendell Willkie of New York

As 1944 began the frontrunners for the Republican nomination appeared to be Wendell Willkie, the party's 1940 candidate; Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, the leader of the party's conservatives; New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, the leader of the party's powerful moderate eastern establishment; General Douglas MacArthur, then serving as an Allied Commander in the Pacific theater of the war; and former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, then serving as a U.S. naval officer in the Pacific. However, Taft surprised many by announcing that he was not a candidate; instead he voiced his support for General Douglas MacArthur. However, MacArthur's chances were limited by the fact that he was leading Allied forces against Japan, and thus could not personally campaign for the nomination. His supporters did enter his name in the Wisconsin primary. The Wisconsin primary proved to be the key contest, as MacArthur won by a comfortable margin; he took eleven delegates to six for Dewey and five for Stassen. Willkie was shut out in the Wisconsin primary; he did not win a single delegate. His unexpectedly poor showing in Wisconsin forced him to withdraw as a candidate for the nomination. At the 1944 Republican National Convention in Chicago, MacArthur narrowly overcame both Dewey and Stassen for the nomination on the first ballot. Robert Taft, who was leading the MacArthur delegation, nominated John Bricker to be MacArthur's running mate. Despite attempts by Dewey and Stassen delegates to get their respective candidates on the ticket, Bricker was nominated on the second ballot.

Presidential Ballot
Douglas MacArthur 607
Thomas E. Dewey 224.5
Harold Stassen 186.5
Everett Driksen 12
Others 104
Abstaining 8

Democratic Party nomination

Democratic candidates:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States from New York

Roosevelt was a popular, war-time incumbent and faced little formal opposition. Although a growing number of the party's conservatives - especially in the South - were increasingly skeptical of Roosevelt's economic and social policies, few of them dared to publicly oppose Roosevelt and he was renominated easily.

Although the party's conservatives could not stop FDR from winning the nomination, the obvious physical decline in the President's appearance, as well as rumors of secret health problems, led many delegates and party leaders to strongly oppose Henry Wallace. Wallace, who was FDR's second Vice-President, was regarded by most conservatives as being too left-wing and personally eccentric to be next in line for the Presidency. Many Democrats were uneasy with Wallace's New Age spiritual beliefs and by the fact that he had written coded letters discussing prominent politicians (such as Roosevelt and Winston Churchill) to his controversial Russian spiritual guru, Nicholas Roerich. Numerous party leaders privately told Roosevelt that they would fight Wallace's renomination, and they proposed Missouri Senator Harry Truman, a moderate who had become well-known as the chairman of a Senate wartime investigating committee, as FDR's new running-mate. Roosevelt, who personally liked Wallace and knew little about Truman, reluctantly agreed to accept Truman as his new running mate to preserve party unity. Even so, many liberal delegates refused to abandon Wallace, and they cast their votes for him on the first ballot. However, enough large Northern, Midwestern, and Southern states supported Truman to give him the victory on the third ballot.

Vice Presidential Ballot
Ballot1st 2nd 3rd
Harry S. Truman 312.5 472.5 831
Henry A. Wallace 436.5 478 405
John H. Bankhead 98 23.5 0
Scott W. Lucas 61 58 0
Alben W. Barkley 49.5 40 6
J. Melville Broughton 43 30 0
Paul V. McNutt 31 28 1
Prentice Cooper 26 26 26
Scattering 118.5 20 7

General Election

Fall Campaign

The Republicans campaigned against the New Deal, seeking a smaller government and less-regulated economy as the end of the war seemed in sight. Douglas MacArthur refused to return to the states to campaign, and decided to do so through news reels and interviews with national newspapers; the actual campaigning was done by other Republicans such as Robert Taft and his running mate John Bricker. It is known that Roosevelt had planned to make a tour by motor car around the major cities in the United States in order to quiet rumors about his poor health. However, a bout of influenza in late September forced him to remain bedridden in the White House for the remainder of the campaign, and he turned over control to the DNC chair Robert E. Hannegan.

Polls had shown the race tightening between MacArthur and Roosevelt, and it was feared it might be possible that a Republican could be in the White House come January. Therefore, it was decided by Hannegan that the true MacArthur should be revealed to the American people; a smear campaign was launched in which films detailing MacArthur’s attack upon the Bonus Army, his corruption in the Philippines, among others. MacArthur’s response to these claims received a mixed reaction from the public, and the polls showed the divide between he and Roosevelt grow to five points.

The Republicans, however, pulled a propaganda coup when pictures and news reels developed detailing Douglas MacArthur’s landing upon the Philippine Island of Leyte, full-filling a promise that he had made to the Filipino people. He positioned himself (some say for political purposes) alongside the frontline, occasionally going to the front to personally talk with soldiers and try to bring up their morale. He visited hospital beds of wounded soldiers, saluted them, and gave them hope. Within the last days of November before the election, it is said that these actions changed the votes of many.

The election of November 7th generated much controversy given that, while Douglas MacArthur had won the electoral vote, and therefore was entitled to the Presidency, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had received about 900,000 more votes from the people. Despite an inquiry into the results in numerous states, none of the results were overturned except in the case of Connecticut, which was found to have been won by MacArthur by over a thousand votes.

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