From the earliest primaries, the Democratic presidential nominee has not been shy about invoking the memories of “another man from Massachusetts” who was born “just two miles from where I live.” Of late, the Kennedy comparisons in Gov. Michael S. Dukakis’ scripts have become even more explicit and insistent.
The larger Dukakis failure has been his inability to make the emotional link with working families and young people, which Kennedy did so spectacularly well, to suggest that adventure and excitement can be part of political change. It’s a failure of personality that no speechwriter is likely to remedy. And it’s a failure that Sen. Dan Quayle accurately diagnosed in an interview a month ago.
Speaking of Dukakis, he said, “He takes a mechanical, technical approach to people’s problems. I don’t think the man can really reach out there and touch people and affect people’s lives. And if a leader can’t reach out there and touch people, and have feeling, compassion, leadership, he’s not going to be a good President.”
Dukakis has a chance to change that perception in next week’s final debate. But as of today, he is losing even more vital ground in the Kennedy comparison than Quayle did the other night.