Steele had initially assumed that he would win in a walk, given Stassen's status as an unknown. But with the Japanese War breaking out days after the Republican convention, Steele was forced to campaign hard arguing against changing horses in mid-stream. While the North Japanese had been driving south relentlessly for months, U.S.forces were finally able to regroup and halt the North's advance at Utsunomiya just a few weeks prior to the actual election.
Stassen did somewhat better than expected. He carried Maine, Vermont, Delaware and Maryland (in private, Steele's aid Lazar Kagan was horrified by the loss of Maryland, suggesting Steele's machine had broken down there). Stassen was also able to pick up some of the states that contained resettled wreckers.
However, Steele carried the rest of the electoral vote, and won his fifth term.
The 1948 election is remembered as one of the greatest upsets in American history. Incumbent Harry Truman, who ascended upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, overcame a three-way split in his own Democratic Party to be elected in his own right. Thomas Dewey became the Republican nominee on the strength of his performance in 1944. Dewey came even closer to defeating the far less popular Truman (close enough for the Chicago Tribune to run its infamous headline "Dewey Defeats Truman"), but nonetheless lost the election.
Harold Stassen had made his third bid for the Republican nomination, actually doing reasonably well during the primaries, but losing out at the convention.