GLENN: Listening to the media follow the 2016 presidential election, you might actually be led to believe that the polls and the media had never before gotten an election wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the presidential election of 1948, the incumbent president Harry S Truman who was the Democratic nominee and who had succeeded to the presidency after the death of president Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 was running against Thomas Dewey, the Republican nominee who had also been the Republican presidential nominee in 1944. The election is considered to be the greatest election upset in American history. Virtually every single prediction indicated that Truman would be defeated by Dewey.
In fact, there may have only been one person in the United States of America who actually firmly believed that Harry Truman would win the election.
VOICE: The next four years will be a Democrat in the White House, and you're looking at him.
GLENN: That person was Harry Truman. Somehow through it all, Truman held onto the belief that he was going to pull off this amazing upset.
VOICE: The New York Times was predicting Dewey would run away with the election. The poll was so certain of the outcome, it stopped polling before the end of October.
GLENN: Then came election night. His early returns started to come in. The staff of the Chicago tribute and one of America's largest newspapers at the time were still confident enough in a Dewey victory to go to print with their first edition headline reading Dewey defeats Truman. The story accompanying the headline was even more wrong. In addition to declaring Dewey the president, it also declared a Republican sweep of the election, claiming Republican control of the House of Representatives and the senate, indicating that the GOP would have an easy time pushing through an agenda with control of congress and the White House. But that didn't happen. Instead, Truman did win the presidency with a electoral vote of 303, over Dewey but Democrats regained the control of the house and the senate that they had lost in 1946. The new media of the day were amazed at what they had witnessed.
VOICE: I think we can all agree on one thing. That not politically but looking at it from a news standpoint, this is a marvelous news story. One of the great news stories of all time.
VOICE: What a lucky thing three fellas like this on this new and tremendously growing thing like television had a chance to play a part of.
GLENN: Dewey was gracious in his concession speech.
VOICE: I've sent the following wire to President Truman. My heartiest congratulations to you. I urge all Americans to unite behind you in support of every effort to keep our nation strong and free and to establish peace in the world.
GLENN: So the Democrats had set the all-time record for the party winning their fifth consecutive presidential election in 1952. Dwight Eisenhower final reverse this trend. Ike was now limited to two terms, which was quickly passed and added to the constitution after FDR's four terms. As a result in 1960, Eisenhower's vice president Richard Nixon ran against a young, upstart senator John F Kennedy. It was Kennedy's catchy presidential ad jingle that seemed to be.
VOICE: Do you want a man who is seasoned, a man who is old enough to know. And young enough to do. Well, it's up to you, up to you, it's strictly up to you. It's Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy.
GLENN: Nixon's campaign was a little more low-key.
VOICE: What is the most important issue confronting the American people in this election campaign? There's no question about the answer that I have found in traveling all over this nation. Above everything else, the American people want leaders who will keep the peace without surrender for America and the world. Henry and I have had the opportunity for serving with president Eisenhower in this cause for the last seven and a half years. We both know Mr. Crusha. We have sat opposite of the conference table with him. We will keep America the strongest nation in the world, and we will couple that strength with firm diplomacy. No apologies. No regrets.
GLENN: Plus Nixon made multiple mistakes during the campaign that cost him dearly. Including an incredibly poor performance in the nation's first televised presidential debate, and he wound up losing to JFK by 112,000 votes nationwide. A .17% different. But there is no doubt that one of, if not the craziest elections in American history took place in 2000. It happened between Texas governor George W. Bush and vice president Al Gore.
The nation had been through scandal after scandal after scandal during the 1990s. The presidency of Bill Clinton and as a result, Clinton and Gore never complained together. Everyone knew that it would be a close election but few would have predicted that it would turn out as razor thin as it did. The day before the election, Matt allower asked what he thought Americans should be watching for on Election Day.
VOICE: What's the key element we should be watching throughout the day tomorrow?
VOICE: Florida, Florida, Florida. I honestly believe, Matt, as goes Florida, as goes the nation.
GLENN: His words turned out to be prophetic. It did indeed come down to Florida. Election night turned out to be an absolute nightmare. For who? Well, for the media. And because it was a nightmare for them, it was a nightmare for us.
VOICE: We're going to report a win of 25 electoral votes in the state of Florida. Turns out President Bush was not his family's keeper. The family was joking that seriously it could be a cold Thanksgiving. Tim has great news in Nashville tonight.
GLENN: NBC wasn't alone.
VOICE: CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column. This is the state both campaigns desperately wanted to win. The state of Florida fought over very hard. The state with a Republican governor named Bush. The brother of the Republican nominee, Jeff Greenfield, this is something that is not making the Bush campaign happy.
VOICE: This is a roadblock the size of a boulder to George W. Bush's path to the White House.
GLENN: A short time later, CNN had to change their call.
VOICE: Stand by. CNN right now is moving our earlier declaration of Florida back to the too close to call column. 25 very big electoral votes in the home state of the brother Jeb Bush are hanging in the balance. This no sleeping victory for vice president Gore. We're moving it back.
VOICE: Oh, waiter, one order, please.
GLENN: Early the next morning, the networks began to declare that but she was now the winner of Florida and a few hours later, they were forced to withdrawal that prediction as well. By 4:30 a.m., the day after the election, the media had decided that Florida was too close to call for either candidate. So they just gave up trying. America would have to wait for days even weeks before the presidential race would be finally decided. While Al Gore actually won the national popular vote by just over 500,000 votes, in Florida, out of the six million votes cast, George W. Bush won the state by the now famous number of 537 votes. That's what triggered a recount and a massive battle in the court system which ended up eventually in the United States Supreme Court. And we all learned new terms like hanging Chad, dimpled Chad, and pregnant Chad.
VOICE: First you have to know that the punch hole is called a Chad. It is attached to the ballot by four threads. In the morning, the commissioners had decided that if it had been detached by only one thread, it would not be counted as a vote. Two detachments, maybe. Three, definitely counted as a vote. At some point in the process, that was changed and the commissioners decided that any Chad that was detached to any degree would be counted as a vote.
GLENN: Dozens of lawyers from both campaigns descended on Florida to weigh in on the process.
VOICE: There are two other strange-sounding categories that were not counted as votes. The first one is called the dimpled Chad. That is that there's an indentation in the Chad, the voter put some pressure on it but didn't detach it at all from the ballot. Not counted. The final category is the pregnant Chad. That is the Chad was Pierce with a hole but not detached actually. Those were not counted. Now, the Republicans said, see? We told you. This is a deeply flawed process. It must stop. But as we know the county commissions here have decided not to stop. They will go for a full recount beginning tomorrow.
GLENN: Litigation in select counties started additional recounts and this litigation ultimately reached the United States Supreme Court. The court's contentious 5-4 decision in Bush V Gore finally ended all of the recounts stating that the already certified recount would stand. Since the safe harbor for counting the electoral votes was at hand. Since Bush had won the previous certified recount, he also won Florida's 25 electoral votes and with it the presidency of the United States. By the slimmest of margins, 271 electoral votes to 266. One of the closest races in all of American history. The outcome gave rise to the phrase that Bush had been selected and not elected. The Democrats were quick to point out that he wasn't a legitimate candidate. Something now many Democrats fail to remember. And even though the Supreme Court had not selected a winner but simply put a stop to the process of recounting the votes over and over again, it didn't stop the claims. Through it all, Americans can take an enormous amount of pride. Pride in the fact that no matter how close, no matter how fought or contentious U.S. elections have been over all of the years, they have always been decided through the constitutionally-mandated process peacefully. What makes America great? Well, this is one of them. We have peaceful transfers of power without violence and tanks rolling through our streets.