Michael Dukakis, calling his overwhelming Wisconsin victory over Jesse Jackson a sign that voters think he has "the strength and the experience" to be president, said Wednesday another win in New York's primary could clear his path to the Democratic nomination.
Jackson insisted that despite twin losses to Dukakis in Wisconsin and Colorado "at this stage of the campaign, I feel very good."The Massachusetts governor won his first Midwestern primary on the strength of the blue-collar vote Tuesday, helping to ease doubts about his appeal even as it was raising questions about Jackson's ability to turn his enthusiastic crowds into success at the polls.
Wisconsin also rang the closing bell for Paul Simon's campaign, giving the Illinois senator a last-place finish. Simon was at home Wednesday in Washington to reassess his campaign and aides said he would make a statement Thursday.
Sen. Albert Gore Jr. spent heavily but remained an also-ran in third place. Just as Simon did here, Gore has put all his chips on the New York primary on April 19.
"New York State has always been friendly to underdogs, and I'm the underdog," Gore said Wednesday as he shook hands with communters boarding the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan.
In Atlanta Wednesday, party chief Paul Kirk was asked if he felt relief that Dukakis had won and set aside at least temporarily the question of a Jackson ticket in the fall. "Not relief," Kirk replied. "I was impressed with the results of the Dukakis campaign."
Kirk said Jackson enjoyed heavy media coverage after his win in Michigan and Dukakis had shown "toughness to stick to the issues."
Jackson, who appeared on "CBS This Morning," congratulated Dukakis for running "a good, effective campaign" in Wisconsin but noted his own strong showings to date.
"Of 40 contests that have been run now, I've come in No. 1 or No. 2 in 30 of them and I have a 250,000-plus popular vote lead, and so at this stage of the campaign I feel very good."
The New York contest puts the spotlight on Gov. Mario Cuomo, who has often been mentioned as a potential draft at a deadlocked convention. But Dukakis' win is likely to tone down talk of drafting Cuomo or another Democrat.
The New York governor has not made an endorsement, but the Dukakis camp is hoping the Wisconsin win could put Dukakis in a good position to finally win the nod from his fellow governor.
There was a Republican primary in Wisconsin, but there were no doubts. Vice President George Bush, the nomination his in everything but name, bested Pat Robertson by a 10-1 margin.