Looking Back on Michael Dukakisand#8217; Presidential Run

BOSTON (AP) *#8212; Sixteen years ago, he was the one trudging through the snows of New Hampshire and the cornfields of Iowa, trying to break out of the pack of Democratic candidates to take on a man named Bush.
These days, Michael Dukakis is far away from the crowds, the cameras and the political action. He spends his time at the end of a crowded hallway at Northeastern University, grading papers in a small, sparsely decorated brick office.
The diminutive Greek-American with the bushy eyebrows has become a cautionary tale, a campaign caricature, a political ghost that Democratic candidates*#8212;even his former lieutenant governor, John Kerry*#8212;are loath to be associated with.
What his reception will be next summer, when the party holds its presidential nominating convention in Boston, is less clear.
*#8220;Theyre going to want to run away*#8221; from Dukakis *#8220;as much as possible,*#8221; said Republican consultant Rob Gray. *#8220;Hes going to be a hot potato for the national party and the Democratic nominee at next years convention.*#8221;
His ride in a tank, with his helmeted head poking out of the top, has become a legendary example of what not to do during a national campaign*#8212;and an indelible symbol of his swift descent in 1988 from August front-runner to November loser.
The fall came as he failed to respond effectively to a charge by his Republican rival, Vice President George H.W. Bush, that he was out of touch with American values.
In Massachusetts, Republicans used his name as a bludgeon against their opponents, accusing them of wanting to return to the *#8220;days of Dukakis*#8221; when he and the Legislature passed what was then the largest tax increase in state history.
*#8220;That must be painful,*#8221; said former House Speaker George Keverian, a Democrat. *#8220;He was a liberal in the best sense of the word and I dont personally think theres anything wrong with that. But in todays politics, no one wants to be called that anymore.*#8221;
Dukakis is forthright about his performance in 1988 and well aware of his status within presidential lore.
*#8220;We ran a picture-perfect primary but screwed up the final election,*#8221; he said. *#8220;I wasnt ready for the attacks. I should have been. Its too bad, but nobodys going to make that mistake again, I hope. The attacks were somewhat unprecedented, but thats no excuse for not being prepared.*#8221;
Supporters remember Dukakis as a strong candidate who received 46 percent of the popular vote*#8212;3 percentage points more than Bill Clinton secured in winning a three-way race in 1992.
*#8220;The truth is, he was a very successful politician,*#8221; said Phil Johnston, the Massachusetts Democratic chairman, who served in Dukakis state administration. *#8220;He was elected governor three times, he was nominated for the presidency. He deserves, and I believe has, the respect of most citizens.*#8221;
Dukakis is beloved by the Democratic Party here. When it threw him a 70th birthday party last month, more than 1,400 people attended, filling ballrooms and balconies.
Dukakis remains a fierce partisan with passionate views on the issues of the day, including the current President Bush. *#8220;This is the worst national administration Ive ever lived under,*#8221; he said.