Election 1940: Maine Means U.S. Victory, G.O.P. Asserts (9-10-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 10, 1940)



Leaders Stress Substantial Boosts in Republican Percentages

By Lyle C. Wilson, United Press Staff Writer

Washington, Sept. 10 –

Republican leaders claimed today that Maine’s general election returns assured the election of Wendell L. Willkie and of a Republican House in November.

They cited substantial increases in the percentage of Republican votes cast in Maine yesterday compared with 1938 as proof that the Republican tide is running strong.

Republicans cast 65% or more of Maine’s aggregate ballots.

65% Is Minimum

Editorial Research Reports said:

Usually, the Republicans have lost the presidential election in the nation when their September vote in Maine has fallen below 65% of the total.

Chairman Joseph W. Martin Jr. of the Republican National Committee said:

The Maine election definitely heralds the end of the Roosevelt administration with all its inefficiency, bungling, extravagance and radicalism.

Chairman J. William Ditter of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, was more specific.

G.O.P. Gains Stressed

Basing his estimate on combined vote in three districts for members of the House, which had increased from 58.8% in 1936 to 66% this year. Mr. Ditter said:

This gain of 7.2% in the Republican Congressional vote checks generally with Republican gains registered in seven special elections earlier this year. In these special elections in Tennessee, Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and New York, the Republican candidates increased the combined G.O.P. vote by 7% over 1938.

Maine thus confirms the nationwide swing toward Republican leadership which has been marked in every special election since 1937. This tide appears to be gaining in sweep and power from month to month.

Clearly it indicates a Republican House in the November general election by a comfortable margin. A general gain of 7% in the Congressional vote over 1938 would give a gain of 71 Republican seats in the new House.

That would give the G.O.P. control with a comfortable working majority and elevate Mr. Martin to the Speakership held since 1930 by Democrats. The Senate will remain Democratic in any event because only one-third of its membership is up for re-election and Republicans have no chance to elect enough new Senators to emerge from the minority.

Representative P. H. Drewry (D-VA), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Committee, disputed the claims advanced by Mr. Martin and Mr. Ditter. He said that “if the Maine election returns mean anything, they merely indicate that Maine is behaving according to form and that it is not yet in touch with national thought.”

“As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” is a discredited phrase although a Democratic victory in that state would have presaged Democratic success nationally. But bare Republican majorities mean usually that the G.O.P. is likely to have trouble throughout the nation.

Some observers contend, however, that steadily increasing Republican percentages in Maine culminating in 65% or more of the state’s aggregate vote usually can be interpreted as omens of a Republican flood tide. The upward trend is evident in Maine.

Here are comparisons of the state’s vote in 1936 and 1940:


1936 1940
Republican 57% ?
Democrat 43% ?


1936 1940
Republican 51% 58.7%
Democrat 49% 41.3%


1936 1940
Republican 57% 63.6%
Democrat 43% 36.4%

FOR THE HOUSE (Three districts combined)

1936 1940
Republican 59% 64.8%
Democrat 41% 35.2%

Portland, Me., Sept. 10 –

Republican candidates won Maine’s “so-goes-the-nation” election by approximately the 65% margin that statisticians had said would augur well for the party in the November presidential election, returns indicated today.

With 624 of the 630 precincts reported:

Representative Ralph O. Brewster (R.) led former Gov. Louis J. Brann (D) for the Senate seat vacated by the retiring Republican Senator Frederick Hale. 149,633 votes to 104,947 – a margin of 59%.

In the gubernatorial race, Sumner Sewall (R.), president of the State Senate, led Fulton J. Redman (D), political columnist, 160,743 to 91,856 – a 64% majority.

The count in the three congressional races was:

FIRST DISTRICT – Complete (152 precincts).
Representative James C. Oliver (R.), incumbent, 55,391.
Peter MacDonald (D), 31, 964.
64% margin.

SECOND DISTRICT – 207 of 209 precincts.
Representative Margaret Smith (R.), incumbent, the first woman to represent Maine in Congress, 57,389.
Edward J. Beauchamp, 31,388.
66% margin.

THIRD DISTRICT – 261 of 269 precincts.
Frank Fellows (R.), 44,107.
Thomas N. Curran (D), 22,013.
68% margin.

Although Maine’s election trend long was regarded as a barometer for the rest of the nation, it failed to give a true prediction in three of the last 11 presidential election years. The most notable exception was in 1936 when Maine elected a Republican Governor in September and President Roosevelt carried 46 states in November.

The New Deal and national defense were the issues in the Brewster-Brann senatorial campaign. Mr. Redman made political capital in his gubernatorial campaign of the $157,000 shortage in state funds, a scandal that resulted in the resignations of five high state officials.