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United States Senate elections, 1946: Map

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The United States Senate elections of 1946 were in the middle of Democratic President Harry Truman's first term.

The vote was largely seen as a referendum on Truman, whose approval rating had sunk to 32% [102784] over the president's controversial handling of a wave of post-war labor strikes, such as a nationwide railroad strike in May, at a time when Americans depended on train service for both commuter and long-distance travel. Just as damaging was Truman's back-and-forth over whether to end unpopular wartime price controls to handle shortages, particularly in foodstuffs. For example, price controls on beef had led to a so-called "hamburger famine" [2], but when Truman, in a surprise move, lifted the controls on Oct. 14 - just weeks before the election - meat prices shot up to record levels.

The president's lack of popular support is widely seen as the reason for the Democrats' congressional defeat, the largest since they were trounced in the 1928 pro-Republican wave that brought Herbert Hoover to power. And for the first time since before the Great Depression, Republicans were seen as the party which could best handle the American economy.

However, the Republicans also benefited from what today would be called "a good map," meaning that of the one-third of Senate seats up for election, the majority were held by Democrats.

In addition to a net Republican gain by appointment before the election, the Republicans picked up twelve seats, eleven of them from Democrats, and one from Progressive Robert M. La Follette, Jr. (P-WI). This gave them a Senate majority for the first time since Hoover's administration. This election is also notable for the election of Joe McCarthy who would become famous for his investigations of communism in the 1950's

In addition to capturing open seats in Idahomarker, Montanamarker, Nevadamarker, and New Yorkmarker, the Republicans defeated seven Democratic incumbents:

Senate contests in 1946

State Incumbent Party Status Opposing Candidates
Alabamamarker1 George R. Swift Democrat Retired: Democratic victory, unopposed John Sparkman (Democrat)

Arizonamarker Ernest W. McFarland Democrat Re-elected, 69.2 - 30.1 Ward S. Powers (Republican)

Californiamarker William F. Knowland Republican Re-elected, 54.1 - 44.2 Will Rogers, Jr. (Democrat)

Connecticutmarker Thomas C. Hart Republican Retired: Republican victory, 56.1 - 40.7 Raymond E. Baldwin (Republican)
Joseph M.

Tone (Democrat)


Delawaremarker James M. Tunnell Democrat Defeated, 55.2 - 44.9 John J. Williams (Republican)

Floridamarker Spessard Holland Democrat Re-elected, 78.7 - 21.4 J. Harry Schad (Republican)

Idahomarker2 Charles C. Gossett Democrat Defeated in primary: Republican victory, 58.6 - 41.4 Henry C. Dworshak (Republican)
George E.

Donart (Democrat)


Indianamarker Raymond E. Willis Republican Retired: Republican victory, 52.4 - 46.8 William E. Jenner (Republican)
M.

Clifford Townsend (Democrat)


Kentuckymarker3 William A. Stanfill Republican Retired: Republican victory, 53.3 - 46.5 John S. Cooper (Republican)
John Y.

Brown (Democrat)


Mainemarker Ralph O. Brewster Republican Re-elected, 63.6 - 36.5 Peter M. MacDonald (Democrat)

Marylandmarker George L. P. Radcliffe Democrat Defeated in primary: Democratic victory, 50.2 - 49.8 Herbert R. O'Conor (Democrat)
David J.

Markey (Republican)


Massachusettsmarker David I. Walsh Democrat Defeated, 59.6 - 39.7 Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. (Republican)

Michiganmarker Arthur H. Vandenberg Republican Re-elected, 67.1 - 32.0 James H. Lee (Democrat)

Minnesotamarker Henrik Shipstead Republican Defeated in primary: Republican victory, 58.9 - 39.8 Edward John Thye (Republican)
Theodore Jorgenson (Democrat)


Mississippimarker Theodore G. Bilbo Democrat Re-elected, unopposed
Missourimarker Frank P. Briggs Democrat Defeated, 52.7 - 47.1 James P. Kem (Republican)

Montanamarker Burton K. Wheeler Democrat Defeated in Primary: Republican victory, 53.5 - 45.4 Zales N. Ecton (Republican)
Leif Erickson (Democrat)


Nebraskamarker Hugh Butler Republican Re-elected, 70.8 - 29.2 John E. Mekota (Democrat)

Nevadamarker Edward P. Carville Democrat Defeated in primary: Republican victory, 55.2 - 44.8 George W. Malone (Republican)
Berkeley L.

Bunker (Democrat)


New Jerseymarker H. Alexander Smith Republican Re-elected, 58.5 - 40.1 George E. Brunner (Democrat)

New Mexicomarker Dennis Chavez Democrat Re-elected, 51.5 - 48.5 Patrick J. Hurley (Republican)

New Yorkmarker James M. Mead Democrat Retired: Republican victory, 52.6 - 47.6 Irving M. Ives (Republican)
Herbert H.

Lehman (Democrat)


North Dakotamarker William Langer Republican Re-elected, 53.3 - 23.5 - 23.2 Arthur E. Thompson (Independent)
Abner B.

Larson (Democrat)


North Dakotamarker4 Milton R. Young Republican Re-elected, 55.5 - 27.4 - 15.2 William Lanier (Democrat)
Gerald P.

Nye (Independent)


Ohiomarker James W. Huffman Democrat Defeated, 57.0 - 42.4 John W. Bricker (Republican)

Pennsylvaniamarker Joseph F. Guffey Democrat Defeated, 59.3 - 39.8 Edward Martin (Republican)

Rhode Islandmarker Peter G. Gerry Democrat Retired: Democratic victory, 55.1 - 44.9 J. Howard McGrath (Democrat)
W.

Gurnee Dwyer (Republican)


Tennesseemarker Kenneth D. McKellar Democrat Re-elected, 66.6 - 26.2 W. B. Ladd (Republican)

Texasmarker Tom Connally Democrat Re-elected, 88.5 - 11.5 Murray C. Sells (Republican)

Utahmarker Abe Murdock Democrat Defeated, 51.2 - 48.8 Arthur V. Watkins (Republican)

Vermontmarker Warren R. Austin Republican Retired: Republican victory, 74.6 - 25.4 Ralph E. Flanders (Republican)
Charles P.

McDevitt (Democrat)


Virginiamarker Harry F. Byrd Democrat Re-elected, 64.9 - 30.5 Lester S. Parsons (Republican)

Virginiamarker5 Thomas G. Burch Democrat Retired: Democratic victory, 68.2 - 29.0 A. Willis Robertson (Democrat)
Robert H.

Woods (Republican)


Washingtonmarker Hugh B. Mitchell Democrat Defeated, 54.3 - 45.2 Harry P. Cain (Republican)

West Virginiamarker Harley M. Kilgore Democrat Re-elected, 50.3 - 49.7 Thomas Sweeney (Republican)

Wisconsinmarker Robert M. La Follette, Jr. Progressive Defeated in Republican primary: Republican victory, 61.3 - 37.4 Joseph R. McCarthy (Republican)
Howard J.

McMurray (Democrat)


Wyomingmarker Joseph C. O'Mahoney Democrat Re-elected, 56.2 - 43.8 Harry B. Henderson (Republican)



1 special election held due to death of John H. Bankhead II (D-AL)

2 special election held due to death of John W. Thomas (R-ID)

3 special election held due to resignation of A. B. "Happy" Chandler I (D-Ky.)

4 special election held due to death of John Moses (D-ND)

5 special election held due to death of Carter Glass (D-VA)

Senate composition before and after elections

79th Congress Senate Composition   80th Congress Senate Composition
                                                                                                 
                                                                                                 
                                                                                                 
                                                                                                 
Color Key:   = Republican   = Democratic   = Progressive


See also




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