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Susan Estrich
8 Oct 2014
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Mitt Romney and Mike Dukakis

Comment

I've been waiting for it: the inevitable comparisons between the Massachusetts governor who ran for president (with my help) in 1988 and the former Massachusetts governor on his way to being the 2012 Republican nominee.

Now, I'll admit that there is almost certainly something in the water in my old home state that leads every politician — or at least every senator and governor — to see a president in the mirror when they shave in the morning. There was Jack Kennedy, of course, and Sen. Ted Kennedy and the late Sen. Paul Tsongas, and don't forget Richard Nixon's running mate in 1960, Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge.

And now Mitt Romney joins the crowd most notable for its (literally) singular success.

But whether Romney ends up winning or losing (which would be my bet), his problems are very different from the last Massachusetts governor to top a ticket.

People forget, but Mike Dukakis was actually a pretty great primary candidate. He had a bad moment early on in Iowa, comparing their farming issues to the cranberry growers in Massachusetts, and he hated going on the attack (even then). But he had no problem connecting with regular people in the sort of intimate campaigning that defines the early contests.

Dukakis lived in a duplex. As governor of Massachusetts, he took the "T" — the subway — to work. He bought his clothes at the old Filene's Basement. He liked traveling coach and staying at cheap hotels and eating a tuna sandwich for lunch. He didn't want Secret Service protection. He fought with me about getting new suits for presidential debates. His wife, Kitty, didn't drive a Cadillac, much less two of them.

He was a liberal. He was, as he put it, a "card-carrying member of the ACLU." Willie Horton (for those who forget or never knew, the murderer who raped a woman while out on furlough) wasn't a problem for Dukakis in the primaries, because primary voters weren't about to abandon him for having a "too lenient" furlough policy. They attacked then-Sen. Al Gore the one time he raised the Horton issue, in New York, for something akin to racism.

No one ever asked whether Dukakis was "liberal enough" to be the nominee of a party dominated, in the primaries and caucuses, by liberals.

It was only in the general election that he faced the question of being too liberal, and to his credit (or discredit, depending on your point of view), he answered it by upholding his views, sticking with his positions and refusing to become an attack dog who shifted all of the attention away from his own perceived weaknesses and onto George Bush's. It was a terrible political strategy — but it also was a reflection of who he really was, and is, in terms of principles and policies.

In almost every way, Romney is different. As a primary candidate, he does face the question of whether he is conservative enough, and he's answered it with some pretzel twists designed to appeal to conservative voters. That probably will get him to Tampa, but it will almost certainly create its own set of problems when he leaves with the Republican nomination.

You can see the ads: Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up? Will it be the guy from the Massachusetts days, who trumpeted his liberal credentials and his mother's courage in taking a pro-choice position, or the conservative Romney, who has been out there trying to beat back the Santorum challenge. The "Etch A Sketch" comment by one of his aides created a furor it never would have in Dukakis' case precisely because Romney watchers are on to the pretzel politics and alert for new twists to come. It would have been far easier for Dukakis to move to the middle than it will be for Romney, who has already done so much moving around and will almost certainly try anyway.

Romney has yet to figure out how to "seem" authentic (only in politics would we talk about "seeming authentic") to average voters. Dukakis was the son of immigrants, an honest-to-goodness American-dream story. Romney is a multimillionaire son of a governor.

On the other hand, we know for a fact that Romney won't lose a second of sleep running a negative campaign. On that score, for better or worse, depending on your calculus, he is certainly no Dukakis.

But the bottom line may be the same. During the darkest days of the Dukakis campaign, I remember studying grim polls with our beloved pollster, the late and brilliant Tubby Harrison, and trying to figure out what to do. Tubby said, more than once, that for all the flaws and mistakes and the rest, our candidate didn't have any problem that just a few more points of unemployment wouldn't solve. I expect that could be true this time around, as well.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Comments

8 Comments | Post Comment
"Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up" thats rich or maybe Estrich. Where are the cries for the real obama to stand up, or cries for any vetting whatsoever of obama? Estrich will not do so, the Democrat party will not do so, liberals will not do so, and the state run media will not do so. When will the real obama, to wit, the communist and domestic terrorist associating, incompetent, race baiting, affirmative action and media created, infanticide enabling, islam pandering, indolent, Marxist, blame Bush first, America second, "enemy within" and facist destroyer of America be made to stand up by honest reporting rather than the present left wing indocrinated sycophantic butt kissing that masquerades as national journalism? One only has to see the AP contort on the present energy policy debacle or watch the stomach churning 17 minute lie and absurd docuganda narrated by Hanks and directed by Guggenheim [together the modern day Leni Reifenstahls (nazi propagandist film maker) of Hollywood] to get the nauseating point. Those who voted for the "mystery man" obama got what they wanted but are now getting what they asked for, that is, deliberately creted unconscionable crippling debt, rampant corruption and crony capitalism precisely as practiced by Hitler, radical socialism, record unemployment numbers, false unemployment reporting, forced wealth redistribution and fascist tyranny. And incredibly, there still are those drones that are prepared to vote for obama again. Such a vote can only be driven by (1) a vile idealogical hatred of this Republic and or(2) the chance of some more " obama dollars" and or (3) the seeking of some other form of hand out at the expense of the wealth producers of this nation and or (4) simple uninformed ignorance.
Comment: #1
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:35 AM
Ms Estrich, I look forward to your similar analysis of the Democratic nominee.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Motley Wisdom
Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:06 AM
i thought i was the only one who remenbered that it was Al Gore who fiirst brought up Willie Horton.
Comment: #3
Posted by: jack latona
Fri Mar 23, 2012 3:19 PM
I thought the photo of Obama standing in front of the oil pipeline looked as stupid as Dukakis in a helmet while he stood on a tank. He now approves of half of the Keystone Pipeline? The half that doesn't start where the oil is? The half that doesn't even need his approval? I don't want to use the Rush word for someone who sleeps around alot but pretending to like domestic oil production seems like a woman who gets paid alot to be popular on her back. And, we all see it. He'll do or say anything now to get elected -- and the state-run media won't question a bit of the hypocrisy that comes out of his mouth. And, of course, Susan will wrap herself into pretzel knots to try to justify the lack of vetting of Obama.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Lesley Barnard
Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:20 PM
Re: joseph wright
Sorry Joseph, according to Internatuioal rules of debate your use of the H word, Hitler, has necessitated immediate elimination from todays game.
You Lose
Please feel free to come back and play again...
Comment: #5
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Sat Mar 24, 2012 7:49 PM
Re: Bloom Hilda What's up Broom Hilda, the truth sting a litte? Don't like the boy barak being accurately described. There are even more substantive similarities between Hitler and obama and Hitler's philosophies than obama's crony capitialism. Hitler did and obama does suffer from Narcisstic Personality Disorder, Hitler did and obama does support(a) abortion and indeed infanticide (b) gun control (c) and rampant lethal anti semitism (no philisophical difference here at all obama is doing what he can to enable the anhiliation of Isreal by Iran) (d) both were/are left wing radicals (e) both created crisis in order to govern unconsitutionally and by fiat (f) both were/are rabid national socialists and statists (g) both demanded /demand adulation from brain dead masses (h) both hid/are hiding their real identies (g) both used domestic terrorists to lanuch their careers, Hitler the brown shirts obama Ayers, Dorn, Khalidi (h) each had similar dysfunctional parenting and I could go on. There is not one of obama's policies that Hitler would not embrace. Both were/are totalitarian, both viewed/view any action by the State justified to achieve their notion of comon good. Both looked for a state that would take responsibility for all aspects of life, for imposing uniformity of thought and action through endless regulation. For both religion, the economy, healthcare all had to align with their view of the state's need. For each free speech was/is anethema. Any rival was/is branded enemy. No Broom Hilda it is you and those like you that have already lost. You never got into the game. You and those like you were beaten before you started. As Al Sharpton would say "resist we much" LOL.
Comment: #6
Posted by: joseph wright
Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:55 PM
Re: joseph wright

You need help, I hope you get it.....
Comment: #7
Posted by: Bloom Hilda
Mon Mar 26, 2012 10:49 AM
Re: Bloom Hilda
What no substantive answer Broom? Can 't dispute the facts can you ? Just today little traitor barack was caught hot mike promising to give missle secrets to Russia if re elected
Re medicate yourself and get back to the liberal virtual reality
Comment: #8
Posted by: joseph wright
Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:19 PM
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