Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen have joined the chorus of Democratic Party leaders urging Paul G. Kirk Jr. to serve another term as party chairman, Kirk disclosed Saturday.
At a meeting with reporters, Kirk said the potential influence of former presidential contender Jesse Jackson on the selection of a new chairman "will play no role in my decision" whether to seek another term.Kirk said he told Jackson in a telephone conversation Friday that he hadn't made up his mind. Jackson responded, "let's stay in touch because that will be important whatever you decide," Kirk said.
Kirk disclosed his conversations with Dukakis and Bentsen, the party's defeated 1988 national ticket, during a meeting of the Association of State Democratic Chairs.
The state party leaders were eager to proclaim the party alive and well after its latest presidential election defeat less than two weeks ago to Republican George Bush.
But they also heard a warning from former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt that they must stop treating campaigns for the White House like "an extension of a congressional campaign" and start offering a larger vision of the future.
"We assume that what elects a senator will elect a president, that what wins the statehouse will win the White House," said Babbitt, whose bid ended after New Hampshire.
He said the Democrats' success in electing members of Congress and governors "makes it even harder to swallow that, once again, the biggest prize, the presidency, has eluded our grasp."
He said that voters regard the presidency as "about the larger issues of personal leadership and national destiny. . . . To become a presidential party we must have a vision of what America can become and the credibility to be heard."
As an example, he cited a phrase often used by Dukakis.
"Good jobs for good wages may be a good slogan, but it is not a policy, much less a program," said Babbitt.