Dukakis Chooses Texas Sen. Bentsen as Running Mate
Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis today picked Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen to be his vice-presidential running mate, forging further parallels to the 1960 election, when a Massachusetts liberal and a Texas moderate joined to defeat a Republican vice president in the general election.
In buoyant, celebratory joint appearances here, both Democrats repeatedly cited what Bentsen called the "Boston-Austin axis" and repeatedly invoked memories of the election 28 years ago when Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kennedy and Texas Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson regained the White House for the Democrats.
"The parallels . . . are very close indeed," Dukakis said, invoking the time-for-a-change theme that will be one of his anthems this fall. "Then we had had eight rather amiable but sleepy years of Republicans in the White House. We had a country that was ripe for change."
Dukakis' choice of Bentsen drew mostly praise from Democrats and even a number of Republicans. But Dukakis' chief rival for the nomination, Jesse L. Jackson, delayed embracing the Democratic ticket. Jackson, who had said on Monday that he would take the vice-presidential spot if it were offered, said today he will continue to press his case for various platform planks on the convention floor next week, have his name put in nomination for president on Wednesday and consider the ticket after that.
The choice also sets up a rematch of sorts between Bentsen and Vice President Bush, the prospective Republican nominee. The two tangled in 1970, when Bentsen defeated Bush, who was then a congressman, to win his Senate seat.
Politicians from both parties said the choice of Bentsen represents a gamble on the part of Dukakis that the Democrats can carry Texas with him on the ticket, even though it is Bush's adopted state. But they also said it provides Bush an opening in a number of northern industrial states that might have been off limits if Dukakis had selected Ohio Sen. John Glenn, who was also under consideration. [Details, Page A4.]
Bush, who today called the selection "interesting," told The Boston Globe in an interview published today that even with Bentsen on the ticket, "we can carry" Texas.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,147 registered voters nationwide shows Dukakis holding a 48 percent to 42 percent lead over Bush. The margin is half that in a June poll, when Dukakis led by 51 percent to 39 percent. A new Gallup poll shows Dukakis leading 47 percent to 41 percent.
Dukakis made the decision late Monday night after a final meeting with top advisers. At 11:30 p.m., Dukakis tried to call Bentsen to offer him the job, but the Texan had turned off his telephone and gone to bed. Dukakis eventually reached him about 6:30 a.m. today, while the senator was shaving. [Details, Page A6.]
Dukakis surprised many political handicappers with his choice of Bentsen, a 67-year-old millionaire who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. When the two campaigned together in Texas a week ago, their relations appeared distant. Today, though, Dukakis said it is "a real joy" to have Bentsen on the slate, and the broad smile he wore all day suggested that he meant it.
After announcing his choice at a hot, boisterous rally in Boston's Faneuil Hall, Dukakis took the Texan on a round of get-acquainted meetings with local and national politicians. Dukakis beamed and boasted of his new partner like a college student who has brought the campus hero home for the weekend. Bentsen played the gracious guest, quiet and deferential.
Dukakis said that Bentsen "hit the proverbial legislative grand slam this year" when he helped pass bills dealing with trade protection, welfare overhaul and mandatory notice to workers of plant closings.