Democratic and Republican consultants agreed yesterday that Governor Michael S. Dukakis lost the race for president because of ineffective campaigning--not overwhelming national support for Bush.
"[Bush] has no mandate from the people to do anything with the presidency" Republican consultant John Sears said in a forum yesterday at the Kennedy School of Government. He said the president-elect made no proposals during his campaign on which the election could serve as a referendum.
"I do feel that this was a race that was lost rather than won," Sears added.
And Democratic consultant Robert Squier expressed confidence that the Democrats will be able to win again. This election was not a referendum on liberalism, he said, and the fault lies in the campaign rather than the issues.
Anything people don't like about an administration can be used against the vice president, said Sears. But the Dukakis campaign failed to make Bush defend himself on issues such as the homeless, because "Mr. Dukakis didn't seem to understand that you could do these things," said Sears.
Dukakis also failed because he made no effort to show his own personality to most of the nation, Sears said, adding "Whenever you let your opponents fill in the blanks you're going to lose."
Squier said that while the character of both candidates was fairly unknown, Bush defined himself as gentle and kind. But in a reference to cartoonist Garry Trudeau's attacks, Squier said Bush showed "his evil twin Skippy" when he got the chance to portray Dukakis as weak and unpatriotic.
The Massachusetts governor should have won groups over to his side on issues while he stood 17 points above the Republican candidate in the polls, and large blocs of people still disliked Bush as a candidate, said Squier. Instead, Dukakis waited until it was too late, he said.
Squier also said that the Democrats did not use the vice-presidential nominees early enough either. He said Dukakis should have used Bush's choice of Sen. J. Danforth Quayle (R-Ind.) as an example of bad judgement. The attack had to be on Bush's judgement instead of Quayle's character, and it had to hit last August when the choice was made, said Squier.
"We tend to believe in this `guerilla raid out of the hills' kind of idea," said Squier, comparing Democratic campaign workers to the Republicans' "trained cadres."
Bush will face new opposition from the Democratic Congress, said both panel members. "The Democrats don't see any reason for being of any real assisstance to Mr. Bush," said Sears. Robert Dole may also work against Bush, he said. "Congress will force Bush to eat his words over taxes," he said.