With family and colleagues, I have...


August 10, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

AFTER DISCUSSION with family and colleagues, I have reluctantly decided that I will not be a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992.

Unlike Senator Rockefeller, House Majority Leader Gephardt, Senator Nunn and others who have also formally bowed out, I plan to endorse another's candidacy.

I urge Democrats to get behind the Man Who knows the path to the White House, the Man Who has a long and distinguished record as a vote getter, the Man Who stands for the core liberal values of the Democratic Party, the Man Who brings to the party the strengths of his ethnic heritage, the Man Who is Massachusetts' favorite son -- . . .

[Sounds off-stage: No! No! Booooo! Down with Tsongas!]

I'm not talking about Paul Tsongas. He's not a candidate. He says he is, but he's not. When he goes around the country making "campaign speeches," he is indulging in pure, selfish fantasy. If he makes that speech in Sarasota, Fla., he will get himself arrested.

Nor am I talking about Sen. Edward M. "Pee Wee" Kennedy, who may yet be arrested for his self-indulgence (in obstructing justice, etc.) in Florida.

I am talking about Michael Dukakis, who has not, so far as I can determine, announced he won't run in 1992.

Dukakis is a logical nominee. He is already well known. He doesn't have the problem that Bill Clinton or Tom Harkin would have of spending a lot of time, effort and money just getting people aware of them.

He doesn't have to learn how to run for president, having done it.

And he's not a bad vote-getter. Pretty good, in fact, by Democratic standards. He got a higher percentage of the popular vote and more electoral votes than any Democratic presidential candidate in the 1980s.

He got 45.6 percent of the popular vote and 111 electoral votes in 1988. Jimmy Carter got only 41 percent and 49 electoral votes in 1980. Walter Mondale got only 41 percent and 13 electoral votes in 1984.

Dukakis also did better in 1988 than the Democratic candidates did in the popular vote in 1952, 1956, 1968 and 1972. He did better in the electoral vote than they did in 1952, 1956 and 1972.

Critics of Dukakis dismiss him on the grounds that he "blew a lead" in 1988, and thus is a poor campaigner. Wrong. It's true that when the Democrats were in the news, as Dukakis was wrapping up the nomination, he was ahead of Bush in some polls, but that means little. Just after he was nominated in 1984, Mondale led Ronald Reagan.

The true campaign begins sometime after both tickets have been selected, usually about Labor Day. The first Gallup Poll in early September, 1988, showed Bush-Quayle ahead of Dukakis-Bentsen by 8 points. The actual results on election day were, Bush-Quayle 53.4 percent, Dukakis-Bentsen 45.6 percent.

Do I really think Dukakis can beat Bush in 1992? No, but what other Democrat could do better?

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