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#166 Truman Campaign
Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert Denny Hatch -- Direct Mail Expert
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Philadelphia, PA
Tuesday, August 30, 2022




#166 Blog Post -- Tuesday, 30 August 2022

Posted by Denny Hatch


Direct Selling an Underdog Candidate 
America's Greatest Data-driven Campaign

  In1945, Sen. Harry S Truman — product of the Kansas City Democratic machine ofnotorious Boss Tom Pendergast — had been the Vice President of the UnitedStates for 82 days. 


Suddenly,on April 12, 1945 — after an unprecedented 12 years in the White House dealingwith the Great Depression and World War II — the beloved terminally ill and tired paraplegicPresident Franklin D. Roosevelt died.


Trumancame into power knowing nothing about national politics.  For example — astonishingly — this Vice President of the United States assumed office never having heard of the TOP SECRET atom bomb.


Trumanpresided over tumultuous times—Civil Rights, Russian expansionism, Korean War, BerlinAirlift, China going Communist. He was vilified, sneered at and ridiculed bythe media, Washington's elite and an obstreperous Republican Congress.


In1948 Truman was nominated for re-election and his candidacy was considered deadon arrival by every big city newspaper, pundits and pollsters alike. New YorkRepublican Governor Thomas E. Dewey was considered a shoo-in.


As the campaign got under way, Dewey was leading Truman by double digits in thepolls. At that point, Elmo Roper ceased all polling, because he knew Dewey’swin was a foregone conclusion.


A Presidential Campaign by Railroad
UnlikeAny Other in American History


Thegreat whistle-stop campaign tour was completely Truman's idea. From July to Octoberthe President traveled 31,000 miles by train across the country. He made352 speeches. Often starting a 6:00 a.m. in his pajamas and bathrobe — he mightspeak to 22 people from the rear platform of his special train and go on to make 16 morestops that day, often ending at midnight. He also spoke to a crowd of 80,000 atthe National Plowing Match in Dexter, Iowa and 125,000 on Labor Day in Detroit.More than 3 million Americans saw and heard the President live and in personduring the tour.


Truman’s Secret Organization

•The campaign had a private group of 7 brilliant researchers/writers back inWashington.


• These faceless wizards planned the schedule of stops and then sent a 12-point questionnaire toDemocratic officials at every one of the scheduled 352 campaign stops.


•The replies and resultant individual speeches were assembled and flown out to the nearestairport and delivered to the campaign train every other day.


•When the train pulled into a little town or a giant state fair, the Presidentappeared and started by acknowledging the local movers and shakers by name — theirpolitics, individual history, gossip, the town's main businesses, restaurants, problemsand news of local economy.  He related tohis listeners in an intimate, personal way.


•Thereafter he would launch into a blistering attack on the “Do-NothingCongress” and promise to make the audience's lives — and the country — a betterplace than ever before.


    "All Politics Are Local.” —Tip O'Neill

Rightup to Election night the pundits, pollsters and newspapers  had Truman losing theelection to Dewey by a huge margin. The reason: the campaign was a series of local stops and local stories. The media did not send their national reporters out to the boonies to cover the president. Gallup's polling operation had gone dark. Nobody in the country had a clue what was happening nationwide. The entire presidential campaign was under the radar.


PhillipWhite's WHISTLE STOP ­— the insider's account of that revolutionary campaign — is deliciousreading. It's a rip-snorting page-turner you won’t be able to put down. Guaranteed!


Takeaways to Consider


•In marketing, the key copy drivers—the 7 emotional hot buttons that make peopleact — are fear, greed, guilt, anger, exclusivity, salvation and flattery.Truman pulled all of them out his bag of tricks—at once folksy and upbeat,snarling and passionate.


 • Unlike today's campaigns, these were not e-mails in teensy-weensy type from a politicalheadquarters showing up on your computer or smartphone that you could delete with a click.


• Here was the real-life President of the United States... right here in yourvery back yard... in the flesh (and sometimes in his PJ's) talking directly to YOU allabout YOUR town, YOUR neighbors, YOUR mayor, YOUR economy, YOUR hopes anddreams. This direct intimacy enthralled listeners in 352 towns and cities,whether the population was two thousand, twenty thousand or 2 million.


•This was the pre-television and pre-Internet.  Today, when a TV appearance is scheduled, talking heads discuss what's about to happen... the candidate is introduced and speaks.Whereupon he/she leaves the scene and a group of know-it-all smarty-pants pundits take over to belittle the candidate and the enthusiasm.

•  For all intents and purposesTruman's secret presidential campaign caused the entire country to focus on municipal, state, House and Senatecandidates.


•To everyone's astonishment in the media and politics — especially to Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey — Truman won re-election by 2.1million votes (Electoral College Votes: 303-189).


An aside: It was Teddy Roosevelt's daughter, the acerbic Alice Roosevelt Longworth (a great friend of my father's) who savaged the slick, smug New York Governor Tom Dewey saying he "looks like the bridegroom on a wedding cake." Dewey never was able to escape the appellation.



•Most astonished of all were the editors of The Chicago Tribune whobought into the inevitability of a catastrophic loss for Truman and ran the huge front-page premature ejaculation, "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN." It was a hoot.


•This was the ultimate direct marketing, data-driven campaign. The President's team had the precise measure of every town, city and state as "Give-'em-hell Harry" talked directly to the voters (buyers) offering features, benefits and guarantees. 


• Nothing like this had ever been done before and could not be done today. In 2022 every local yokel media organization can go national with 5G networks, mini-cams and drones and be instantly on the air with the news, gossip, dirt and lies, lies, lies.

A personal digression...



In1947, my father, historian Alden Hatch, was signed by Liberty magazineto write series of monthly articles on all the presidential candidates. He interviewedall the Republicans — Harold Stassen, Robert A. Taft, Arthur Vandenberg, and ThomasE. Dewey as well as President Truman.


Myfather's final question to each of them was, "From one poker player to another: When do you draw to an inside straight?” All the Republicans — Dewey, Stassen, Vandenberg and Taft — solemnly shooktheir heads and said “Never.”


In the Oval Office, my father asked the President if he ever drew to an inside straight. Truman broke into huge grin. “Always!” he said gleefully.


P.S. The bourbon flowed, poker games were the entertainment. The private dining car had superb cuisine with white linen table cloths and polished silver. In short, it was a workaholics' grand stag party on wheels where a good time was had by all.

P.P.S. Might not this unique campaign model work for folksy Uncle Joe Biden in 2024? 








The Most Fun You Can Have
In the English Language
At age 15, Denny Hatch—as a lowly apprentice—wrote his first news release for a Connecticut summer theater. To his astonishment it ran verbatim in The Middletown Press.He was instantly hooked on writing. After a two-year stint in the U.S. Army (1958-60), Denny had nine jobs in his first 12 years in business. He was fired from five of them and went on to save two businesses and start three others. One of his businesses—WHO’S MAILING WHAT! newsletterand archive service founded in 1984—revolutionized the science of how to measure the success of competitors’ direct mail. In the past 55 yearshe has been a book club director, magazine publisher, advertising copywriter/designer, editor, journalist and marketing consultant. He is the author of four published novels and seven books on business and marketing.



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