Democrat Michael Dukakis Tuesday named Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen as his vice presidential running mate for the fall campaign, duplicating a Massachusetts-Texas ticket that won the White House for John Kennedy in 1960.
Bentsen came to the Senate floor briefly Tuesday morning to vote but declined to answer questions, saying with a smile only that, "I hope to be in Boston" later in the day. An early afternoon announcement was made at Fanueil Hall.Dukakis' choice sets up a home-state showdown with the Republicans for the big prize of 29 electoral votes, since Vice President George Bush, the GOP's presidential nominee-to-be, claims Texas as his voting residence.
"It makes Texas a battleground," said Republican strategist Vince Breglio.
"The Massachusetts-Texas combination got this country moving again in 1960 - and it will do the same for the nation in 1988," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose brother tapped Lyndon Johnson in 1960 - a reluctant decision that was instrumental in Kennedy winning a close election.
Bush said in an interview published Tuesday that the selection of Bentsen won't change his claim to Texas.
Bentsen "doesn't worry me," Bush told the Boston Globe before Bentsen's selection. "We can carry the state."
Bush has lost to Bentsen once already. They squared off in a 1970 race that propelled Bentsen to the Senate for the first of his three terms.
Dukakis chose Bentsen, 67, at a meeting late Monday night with top aides Paul Brountas and Susan Estrich, just hours after Jesse Jackson for the first time declared his hopes for the vice presidential nomination.
Early Tuesday morning, Dukakis began to call the other Democrats who had made it onto his short list of possible running mates to tell them of the decision. But Jackson, who flew from Cincinnati to Washington early Tuesday, apparently did not get a call before the choice became known.
A curt "no" was Jackson's reponse to a reporter's question in Washington on whether he had talked with Dukakis. Jackson would only say "no comment" on the choice of Bentsen as he headed for private meetings with supporters.
He and Bentsen passed through the same Washington airport terminal within minutes of each other Tuesday without meeting, with Bentsen headed to Boston along with Brountas.
The next 24 hours will provide a highly visible stage for Jackson to give his response to the Bentsen choice and for Dukakis to appeal to Jackson's supporters for the unity he needs for a peaceful convention in Atlanta next week.