Neither Michael Dukakis nor his friend and money-raiser Bob Farmer assumed great success when they sat down at the Massachusetts governor's breakfast table one day in the fall of 1986.
Dukakis was casting an eye toward the presidency, and he had one question."He said, `Look, if I decide to go for this thing, will the money be there to wage a credible campaign?' " Farmer recalled.
Farmer responded with some optimism, but a day later he had second thoughts. He called Dukakis.
"I'm troubled by one thing," he told Dukakis. "I've never raised money for a guy who's at 1 percent in the polls."
As it turned out, Farmer underestimated.
Dukakis has been underestimated all along in this presidential campaign, much as his fall opponent, Republican George Bush, has been.
Critics fault Dukakis for a cold aloofness, a lack of passion, and a presence that creates barely a ripple outside a staged event. Not until Pennsylvania's primary Tuesday, where he won by 2-to-1 over Jesse Jackson, did polls show that as many as half those who voted for Dukakis actually supported him strongly.
"This guy really is the Rodney Dangerfield of presidential politics," said Bob Beckel, who managed Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign. "This guy gets more criticism for a winner than anybody I've seen in modern presidential politics."
"Dukakis is a man who is easy to underestimate," says his friend, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. "But he is extremely competent and well-disciplined and has good values and all that comes through to the voters."
Dukakis had other advantages, aside from money. He was helped by geography and a primary calender that fit nicely with his bases of support.
And like any winner he was lucky. He was a beneficiary of Gary Hart's political self-immolation, the disasters and missteps that befell other opponents, the reluctance of New York Gov. Mario Cuomo to enter the race, and the lack of national stature of his opponents.
Critics and supporters will argue over whether Dukakis's belated emergence was a triumph of money over message, but it is indisputable that his financial success made much of it possible.
The Dukakis campaign raised $17 million by Iowa's caucus night.
His bankroll allowed him to run campaigns everywhere, and to keep staff in place while opponents were collapsing their efforts into Iowa and New Hampshire.