Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Bush Ever Get to Akron?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Bush Ever Get to Akron?

Article excerpt

SINCE George Bush says he's running a Harry Truman, come-from-behind campaign, it is relevant to take a closer look at the famed Truman campaign through the eyes of historian David McCullough in his highly acclaimed new biography, "Truman."

"Were one to pick a single representative day of all the many days in Harry Truman's drive for the presidency in 1948," Mr. McCullough writes, "a day that in spirit and content could serve as a classic passage in his whistle-stop odyssey, probably it would be Monday, October 11, when he barnstormed through central Ohio as a start of what was to prove a crucial swing into the middle west." That day Truman made 11 speeches in 15 hours, hammering away on his favorite themes.

After a dreary start, the crowds began to get bigger and more responsive. By the time Truman arrived that evening in Akron, Ohio, the crowds were "tumultuous." Truman told his audience: "I have lived a long time - 64 years - and I have traveled a lot, but I have never seen such turnouts ... the Republicans have the propaganda and the money but we have the people, and the people have the votes. That's why we're going to win."

The next day Newsweek magazine announced a survey it had taken among 50 highly regarded political writers on how they thought the election would turn out. The result: 50 for Dewey, 0 for Truman. McCullough tells us that when presidential adviser Clark Clifford showed the poll to Truman, he looked at it and said: "I know every one of those 50 fellows. There isn't one of them who has enough sense to pound sand in a rathole."

In early June of this year a group of leading Washington journalists was polled and saw, in a three-way race, Mr. Bush beating Bill Clinton by 2 to 1 and Ross Perot by 3 to 1. But now it is difficult to find any of my colleagues who says he thinks Mr. Clinton can lose. Indeed, a 50 to 0 vote for the Arkansas governor would probably be forthcoming.

Count me as a "maybe" voter on the outcome of the November election. I have been covering the political beat now for a long, long time. And I have come to believe what a highly respected old-timer in this business once told me: "The unpredictable is the norm in politics. …

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