Massachusetts Not a Shoo-In for Democrats? Michael Dukakis Responds

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," July 10, 2006, that was edited for clarity.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: What is happening in the state of Massachusetts? It is usually a shoo-in for Democrats.

I want you to take a look at this poll: Bay State voters favoring Republican Senator John McCain over Senator Hillary Clinton 44 to 43 percent. Now, Senator McCain also leading Al Gore by the same margin. This from the only state in the nation that voted for George McGovern in 1972, a safe Democratic bastion, we’re told, than any you could find.

Reaction now from the former Democratic Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis, of course, the governor was a presidential nominee himself.

Governor, good to have you.


CAVUTO: What do you make of this? I mean, it’s still early on, Governor, but it is rather remarkable for a Republican to even be competitive in the polls with a Democrat in your state, isn’t it?

DUKAKIS: Well, Neil, we have had governors — we have had Republican governors in this state for 16 years. I mean, we haven’t had a Democratic governor since I was governor. So, don’t make the mistake of assuming that Massachusetts is totally in the Democratic column.

We are a very independent state. We voted for Ronald Reagan not once, but twice, in the 80s. The voters of this state are very independent.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t spend two seconds looking at these polls and these poll numbers. I mean, at this stage of the game, this is nothing but recognition — these are nothing but recognition numbers.

Right now, my party ought to be focusing laser-like on the congressional elections and the gubernatorial election in this state. And there will plenty of time to handicap the presidential race after the fall elections.

CAVUTO: Well, let’s talk about the fall elections, and then after that, Governor. Do you think that there is the possibility here that Democrats, who are getting gleeful going into the midterm elections, are uncorking the bubbly too soon?

DUKAKIS: My concern, Neil, is that my party has forgotten how you organize at the grassroots.

Look, I’m a guy who wouldn’t have been elected dog catcher if it hadn’t been for grassroots organizing, precinct captains in every precinct, door-to-door contact on the part of thousands and thousands of people. And that’s the way you win elections, especially when the other side can out raise you and outspend you.

And I don’t think we have been doing that very well at all. We have got to back to the grassroots. We have got to organize at the precinct level. If we do that, we can take the Congress back. But we have got to do it.

CAVUTO: Let me ask you about the present outgoing governor — can I say that, present outgoing? I guess I can. Mitt Romney all but declared...

DUKAKIS: Well, he hasn’t — he hasn’t been...

CAVUTO: He’s a Republican — all but declared.


CAVUTO: What do you make of his chances?

DUKAKIS: Well, I’m not an expert on how to win Republican nominations. And, obviously, Neil, I’m not an expert on how to win the presidency. If I was, I would be talking to you in another capacity. So I’m no expert on this.

Look, I’m not a great fan of Mitt Romney’s. I think he has been a very disappointing governor. In effect, he has been an absentee for the past two years. These days, he rarely shows up at the statehouse. I don’t know how you run for the presidency with that kind of record.

But he’s running in the Republican primary. He’s the guy that has got to make that decision. But we don’t see him around here much. And, as a practical matter, he has really stopped being the governor of the state these past several months.

CAVUTO: Well, no one saw Bill Clinton around when he was running for president, right?

DUKAKIS: That’s right.

CAVUTO: So, I guess...

DUKAKIS: Right, or Jimmy Carter.

CAVUTO: Or Jimmy Carter.

DUKAKIS: Or Mike Dukakis.

CAVUTO: Or Mike Dukakis.

DUKAKIS: Or Mike Dukakis, for that matter.

CAVUTO: Or Mike Dukakis.

DUKAKIS: Anybody has got a shot at that.

CAVUTO: But you don’t think it makes a difference – what I always wonder about, Governor, is whether the country might go through Massachusetts’s fatigue. The last successful Massachusetts resident who made it to the White House was John F. Kennedy.


CAVUTO: Many have tried since, including yourself, John Kerry the most recent example, maybe Mitt Romney now.

Is it a case of too much Massachusetts?

DUKAKIS: Too much Massachusetts?


DUKAKIS: Well, this is a great state. We are very proud of it.

But every race is different, Neil. I mean, you can’t look at this one and go back to 2004, or, that matter, 1988, and try to draw conclusions. Every election is different.

All I can tell you is that, for all practical purposes, Mitt Romney has been an absentee governor around here for the past two or three years.

CAVUTO: All right.

For yourself personally, would you ever entertain politics again?

DUKAKIS: Well, you never get out of politics. I mean, I’m deeply and actively involved.

But, if I want to stay married, I will not run for elective office again. I mean, Kitty is terrific and she is as deeply committed to public life as I am. But, you know, we have had a great run. I was governor of this state for 12 years, obviously didn’t make the presidency.

But, these days, I’m teaching. My mission in life is to encourage young people to go into public service. I teach year-round, full-time, mostly at Northeastern University here in Boston, during the winter at UCLA out in Los Angeles.

I love working with young people, love encouraging them to go into public service. That’s what I do. I spend a lot of time talking about public service on college campuses. And that’s what I love doing these days. And I’m going to continue to do it.

CAVUTO: And I spotted you on the train. No limos for you. You ride on the train with everyone, right?

DUKAKIS: Well, look I’m a Democrat.

CAVUTO: OK, Governor Michael Dukakis, good seeing you again, sir. Thank you.

DUKAKIS: Good to talk with you.

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