Not surprisingly, Utah Democratic leaders think Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, is a great choice for Michael Dukakis' vice presidential running mate, while local Republicans say Bentsen will add little or nothing to the Democratic ticket.
The Bentsen choice is good for Utah and Utah Democrats, said Randy Horiuchi, state Democratic chairman.Referring to Bentsen's defeat of now-Vice President George Bush in Texas' 1970 Senate race, Horiuchi said, "Even our No. 2 guy can beat Bush, that's great. Seriously though, Bentsen is a moderate-to-conservative Democrat who knows western and southwestern issues, he gives us good geographic balance, and, most importantly, he, along with Dukakis, gives us strong finance experience and strong economic development. Both those are very important to Utah," Horiuchi said.
Horiuchi added that he hoped Bentsen's Senate work with Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, who was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee when Republicans controlled the upper body, would give Utah a good working relationship with a Democratic administration.
"This Dukakis-Bentsen ticket is perhaps the best ticket possible from Utah's standpoint. Bentsen is right up there with Sen. Sam Nunn as far as being respected here," he added.
Horiuchi, a delegate to the convention, believes Jesse Jackson, who will finish second to Dukakis, will accept the choice of Bentsen. Jackson said he deserved to be offered the vice presidential slot because of his strong showing in a number of state Democratic primaries and because he has renewed political interest among the poor and disadvantaged.
"But we may see more vigorous floor debate on platform planks at the convention because of this (Jackson not being picked by Dukakis)," Horiuchi said. "But Jackson is a good Democrat. He won't do anything to really hurt the party."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Bentsen's liberal policies will re-emphasize the liberal policies of Dukakis. "If there were value to the Democrats' having a vice president from the South, that advantage is muted with Bush's being from Texas. Any southern or western benefit will already be on the Republican ticket," Hatch said. Hatch has known Bentsen for a dozen years and said, "He's a nice man," but not a great help to the ticket.
Former Sen. Ted Moss, D-Utah, worked with Bentsen for several years in the Senate. "He is a fiscal conservative, well respected by the Republicans in the Senate and yet able to work well with the more liberal members of his own party," Moss said.
Former Utah Democratic Chairman Pat Shea, the chairman of the Utah delegation to the Democratic convention, said the Dukakis-Bentsen ticket will be the strongest in Utah in recent years. "We'll win Utah for the first time since 1964. I feel great about the ticket."