Energized by waves of rhetoric ridiculing George Bush, the Democratic Party awards its presidential nomination tonight to Michael Dukakis. Both Dukakis and Jesse Jackson will have their names entered in nomination at the Democratic National Convention, but when the roll is called it will be the steel-tempered Massachusetts governor, not the fiery preacher-politician, who will triumph.
Dukakis will claim his prize with an acceptance speech Thursday night following the convention's ratification of his choice of a Southern moderate, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, as running mate.When Democrats vote to nominate Dukakis, they will take a step that may also make former Utah Gov. Scott M. Matheson the new secretary of Interior.
Rumors floating at the Democratic National Convention say Matheson is a top candidate for that post. Matheson acknowledged in a Deseret News interview that many are considering him for the position.
"But I have never talked about it with Mike Dukakis, nor will I unless he wants to," he said. "I am not here supporting him for president in return for a job. I am here because he is the best man for president.
"The selection of secretary of interior is up to him, and I will not try to influence it. Whatever happens, happens," he said.
But he adds, "I would be interested in the job, and feel that I am well suited for it."
Dukakis spokesman Steven Akey said he would not comment on Matheson's chances for the job yet. "Any such talk is premature. Gov. Dukakis' focus now is on beating George Bush in November."
But other Democrats are willing to talk about Matheson's chances, and say they are excellent.
Pat Shea, chairman of the Utah delegation, said he spoke to Dukakis personally about Matheson when Dukakis visited Salt Lake City in June to address the annual convention of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
"Dukakis told me that Scott Matheson is the most diligent public servant that he has ever met. That seems to me to be a prime qualification for the job," Shea said.
He added, "We've heard from a number of state delegations that they think Scott would be a logical choice for the job."
Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, said, "It is well known that Scott is not-so-secretly campaigning for consideration for the job. But two or three other Western governors are also being talked about, and several members of Congress also want the job. I support Scott Matheson. He would be excellent."
State Democratic Chairman Randy Horiuchi said he has heard that former Idaho Gov. John Evans and former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt are also being considered.
"Matheson would be primo. But all three would do a great job for us in the West," Horiuchi said.
He noted that Matheson became well acquainted with Dukakis when they were both governors active in the National Governors Association, which Matheson chaired one year. Horiuchi also said Matheson is held in high esteem in the party for chairing the Democratic National Policy Committee two years ago _ which provided the basis for this year's platform.
Dukakis' name will be put in nomination tonight by Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, who said he wants to make clear "why he's the right person for president for this time."
Trying to dispel the notion that Dukakis is cold and unfeeling, Clinton said, "If he gets elected, as I think he will, people will see that he's got a sunny side to his personality, just like Reagan does."
For Dukakis, the nomination marks the end of a 17-month battle against six other Democrats to carry the party's banner in the presidential campaign.
A product of the comfortable Boston suburb of Brookline, Dukakis is a new breed of politician _ one who considers politics to be as much a profession as engineering.
In the rough and tumble of the Massachusetts Legislature, he gained the grudging respect of old-line politicos despite an aloof style that stressed statistical argument over back-slapping and backroom deals.
After one term as governor he was defeated for renomination by a conservative, partly for breaking his no-new-tax pledge and partly for his distant demeanor. Humbled and wiser, he regained his old job and went on to be voted by his fellow governors as the most effective in their ranks.
As the party's nominee, Dukakis will face Bush, the target during the second night of the convention of verbal abuse from some of the Democrats' top stars.
"George Bush is the man who is never there _ and he won't be there after the clock strikes noon on Jan. 20, 1989," Sen. Edward Kennedy declared.
Bush emerges from the seclusion of a fishing trip in Wyoming to go on the campaign trail and try to divert attention from Dukakis' triumph. The vice president will campaign in the Detroit area in the first stop on an eight-state tour.