Election 1944: Pennsylvania’s vote (10-30-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 30, 1944)


Background of news –
Pennsylvania’s vote

By Bertram Benedict

In journeying to Philadelphia last Friday to make one of his major speeches of the 1944 campaign, President Roosevelt testified to the political importance of Pennsylvania this year.

In a close election, Pennsylvania might well prove pivotal with its 35 electoral votes, fewer only than New York’s 47. It is being frequently said that Mr. Roosevelt, with a foundation of 113 votes in the Deep South, will win if he carries Pennsylvania even if he loses New York, but that Governor Dewey, absolutely sure of only 55 electoral votes in the Midwest, needs Pennsylvania as well as New York.

In 1940, the Keystone State gave Mr. Roosevelt a majority of 221,187 in a total of 4,060,883 presidential votes cast. Mr. Roosevelt had a majority of 177,271 in Philadelphia County and one of 104,641 in Allegheny County. In the rest of the state the result was 50-50, with Wendell Willkie receiving a net majority of 725.

In 1936, Pennsylvania gave Mr. Roosevelt a majority of 663,488 over Alfred M. Landon. But in 1932 Pennsylvania was one of the six states which stuck by Herbert Hoover, giving him a majority of 157,592 over Mr. Roosevelt.

From Civil War until 1936

Pennsylvania never went Democratic for President between the Civil War and 1936, even when the Democrats won the presidency in 1884, 1892, 1912 (Pennsylvania voted for Theodore Roosevelt on a third-party ticket), and 1916. In the close election of 1916, the Keystone State gave Charles Evans Hughes almost 60 percent of its major-party vote.

Possibly it was because Pennsylvania was not regarded as a doubtful state that the Republicans never went to it for their presidential nominee, Although the state always has ranked second or third in population, it has given only one President to the nation – Democrat James Buchanan, elected in 1856, and perhaps the weakest of all our Presidents.

In the decades prior to the New Deal, a very large proportion of Pennsylvania’s miners and factory-workers had been won over to the Republican gospel of a high protective tariff to keep wage rates high. John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers since 1919, was a Republican and worked for the Republican ticket.

Democratic in 1934

But after 1932, the miners and factory workers of Pennsylvania seemed to go over to the Democrats with a whoop and a holler. In 1934, Pennsylvania elected a Democratic Governor, a Democratic Senator, and Democrats to 23 of its 34 seats in the House of Representatives. Mr. Lewis became an ardent supporter of the New Deal and told the country over the radio in October 1935:

The President has succeeded so well in his task of rehabilitating America that the industrialists and financiers have recovered sufficiently to fight him with malice and venom.

In 1938, Pennsylvania went back to Republicanism in the state election. It elected a Republican Governor by a 279,000 majority, a Republican Senator by 393,000.

In 1940, when Mr. Lewis was back in the Republican camp, he could not carry his miners with him. The state voted for Mr. Roosevelt and for a Democratic Senator (by 177,000), and sent more Democrats than Republicans to the House.

But in 1942, Pennsylvania was back with its old love, the GOP – it elected a Republican Governor by 218,000 majority, sent almost twice as many Republicans as Democrats to the House, and elected a Republican as its Representative-at-Large by a majority of 255,000.