Experts Cite Dukakis' Errors
K-School Panel Says Duke Lost his Chance
A series of strategy errors is likely to cost Gov. Michael S. Dukakis the presidency, a bipartisan panel of campaign experts told about 150 people at the Kennedy School last night.
Five top officials from past races analyzed this year's campaign in a discussion sponsored by the Institute of Politics (IOP) and agreed that Dukakis has failed to articulate his personality, ideas and visions. They charged that the governor has largely ignored attacks on his liberalism made by Bush.
"People assumed Dukakis would respond, and he didn't," said Ed Rollins, national director of the Reagan's 1984 campaign. "It's been like John Wayne versus the nerd in the schoolyard."
Members of Dukakis' party also said the candidate had not put up a good defense to Bush's challenges. "Charges landed, and nothing came back," said Kathy Bushkin, press secretary for Gary Hart's 1984 campaign.
Recent polls have shown the Vice President leading by more than 10 percent.
In an interview after the discussion, Rollins said Dukakis lost ground in the month after the Democratic convention. "The only issue early on was whether George Bush was the man to fill the president's shoes, and Dukakis didn't make the case that he wasn't." He said Dukakis had waged the campaign on Bush's territory, adding, "Bush is killing him."
But the panelists also agreed that the popularity of President Reagan has done much for Bush's campaign. One panelist said the Republican image as being the party of prosperity has probably aided the vice president.
"Reagan gave Bush the ball at the 20-yard line, and Bush carried it over," said David Gergen, Reagan's speechwriter during the 1980 campaign and later the White House communications director.
The panel also agreed that Dukakis has not shown the electorate that he has faith in his own liberal politics, calling him uncomfortable with his own positions.
But if Bush wins on Nov. 8, panel members said they expect a difficult transition in the early months of his presidency.
"It'll be much tougher for Bush to govern than to win the election," Gergen said. "He'll have to quickly lay out a clear vision of where he will go as President."