Why not the man from San Antonio?

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NOW that some of the polls, most of the political pundits, and a few of the other prognosticators have spoken, it's time for a serious prediction. Gov. Michael Dukakis won't pick any of the names currently afloat in the press. Mr. Dukakis will select a running mate based on criteria not mentioned to date. However, his selection will balance the ticket regionally and add several other winning dimensions.

Before my prediction of who Dukakis will choose, here's a little background.

A few years ago, I spent a very long morning with him. He was teaching at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and I was writing a book about executives - from both government and business - who had lost their jobs. From that interview, two dimensions of his personality have stuck with me: He looks upon problems as opportunities; and he has at least one hero no one has yet mentioned in print.

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While others look at societal problems with either temerity, timorousness, or worse yet, deny their existence, Dukakis looks upon them as opportunities. He thinks ``comprehensively,'' not ideologically. Nor does he look through the wrong end of the telescope.

He is, and has been, particularly interested in the rebirth of cities in Massachusetts. Further, he knows that the growth of our national economy and its stability depends in no small measure upon the economic health and stability of our cities. Therefore he will pick a running mate who has considerable experience in solving problems as an urban leader. Next, given the governor's sense of ethnic identity, and impressive ability with Spanish, he will be predisposed toward a Spanish-surnamed running mate and other minorities.

During our interview a few years ago, he said that one of his heroes was Dick Tiger, the 1962-63 and 1965-66 middleweight boxing champion. How many potential presidential candidates would admit admiring a black man (other than Martin Luther King Jr.), especially one who lost and regained a boxing title without much fanfare?

Dukakis said he admired Mr. Tiger because, while he was champion, he refused to act like most of the boxing elite. As reigning champion, Tiger lived modestly (in YMCAs) and planned ahead for his re-entry into life in the slow lane.

Now, we have three selection criteria: urban political experience, a strong ethnic identity, and one who performs his duties like a champion without adopting a regal life style.

As you look around the nation, there are just a few who fit these criteria. As I scanned the press - daily and periodic - one name jumped from the pages: Mayor Henry Cisneros of San Antonio. Yes, that's who will be standing with Dukakis during the final minutes of the Democratic Convention this month.

What does Mayor Cisneros add? He gives him all of the above plus geographic balance - the Southwest to be sure; but the governor doesn't need the deep South to get the 170 necessary electoral votes. However, he does need California (47), where Mr. Cisneros should be able to turn out the Hispanic vote. Cisneros would also aid in adding his home state, Texas (29). Next, the Democrats could count on at least one of two other Southwest states, New Mexico (5) or Arizona (7). If Cisneros can help that much, then Dukakis, alone, can get the rest of the electoral votes.

He will carry Massachusetts (13). And with a less than 10 percent swing needed for a Democratic majority, he should carry Minnesota (10), Rhode Island (4), New York (36), Illinois (24), Michigan (20), Ohio (23), Pennsylvania (25), Wisconsin (11), Washington (10), Tennessee (11) and the District of Columbia (3). That puts him at 271 - providing he continues to focus on our omnipresent urban problems.

The infrastructures of most of our major cities must be rebuilt. To do that effectively, our national leadership must be sensitive to the needs of minorities. The ticket will have to signal to those who have been left out that change is coming and it will include them.

Cisneros as a running mate would do more than ``balance'' the ticket. He would send a powerful signal that Dukakis is ready to consider the aspirations and views of a wide range of people right from the start.

Cisneros will be the running mate if Dukakis remains as I found him a few years ago in that small Harvard office thinking about his future as well as that of his state and country. Dukakis and Cisneros. Roll that around your tongue and mind a bit: it's a winner.

Morris Shepard is a free-lance writer, consultant, and visiting associate professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston.

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