Former Massachusetts governor and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis
Michael Dukakis wants to know why Kansas is called a "red state."
The state elected a Democratic governor. And just as many members of the Kansas delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are Democrats as are Republicans, he points out.
Dukakis, a former Democratic presidential candidate and governor of Massachusetts, is convinced the Democratic candidates are making a big mistake in bypassing red states, where he says they can win if they'll only concentrate on grass-roots organizing.
"Although I'm not going as a partisan, it's time Democrats go to places like Kansas," Dukakis said.
He will speak tonight at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University. The interview-style speech will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Barbara Ballard, associate director of the institute, said Dukakis was asked to speak because he brings a sense of how both winning and losing can change a person.
"He's spent his whole life in public service," said Ballard, also a state legislator representing Lawrence. "Here at the Dole Institute, we try to teach that public service is an honorable profession."
Dukakis said that while he prefers winning to losing, he was much better for having lost his first re-election bid as governor.
"I spent a lot of time listening to what I may have been doing wrong. I was a much better governor the next time around," he said.
With his experience in presidential politics, Dukakis is also expected to discuss this year's presidential campaign. A preview: The presidential primary system is broken, he says.
"The parties have to get together, sit down and straighten this out," he said. "The process is confusing and does nothing to benefit the candidates."
Dukakis endorsed legislation that would create six regional primaries, spread out over about three weeks. Those primaries would be assigned based on lots, instead of lumping random primaries together on Feb. 5.
This year, the Iowa caucuses will kick off the nominating process on Jan. 3 - the earliest they've been held.
"If you want to hang on to the Iowa, New Hampshire thing, you might start with that toward the end of January," he said.
Dukakis said that the country gains from a process in which everyone has a long time to get to know the candidates, rather than forcing out most of them almost a year before the election.
While admitting his politics differ greatly from those of former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., Dukakis said he's always admired Dole's approach to politics. He said he fondly remembers when Dole and former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York teamed up to convince then-President Ronald Reagan to sign welfare-to-work legislation that Dukakis had promoted as governor of Massachusetts.
In addition, he said, "(Dole) is one of the funniest guys in America. That's one of the unfortunate things about presidential campaigns: People only see you for seven seconds," Dukakis said. "What happened, probably, is people around him told him, don't try to be funny. And that's too bad."