President-elect George Bush has an excellent opportunity during the next 100 days to strengthen his hand by broadening his political base. His immediate task: widen his appeal to millions of Americans who voted for Michael Dukakis.
Political experts say Mr. Bush can - and should - move quickly to win over many of these people. They say it should not be difficult.
Exit polls show that although 41 million people voted for Mr. Dukakis, about 20 million of them really were motivated by antagonism to Bush, not fidelity to Dukakis.
Dukakis didn't really win those votes. Bush lost them, often with negative campaigning. Now, during the post-election honeymoon period, he can get many of them back on his side - a critical step for the success of his first year.
The director of Bush's polling division, Vince Breglio, says the harsh tone of the fall campaign convinced many Americans that the vice-president ``had personally become a mean, negative, hard-nosed tough campaigner.'' Their impression was that he was a person who would ``give no quarter'' and was ``unfair,'' Mr. Breglio says.
Ed Rollins, who ran Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign, agrees. He says the tough tone of the campaign ``chased a few of those people off.''
For that reason, Mr. Rollins suggests that ``the impression people get of George Bush during the first 90 to 120 days will be very, very important.''
He explains: ``It's sort of like when Jimmy Carter won and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. All of a sudden, during that first 100 days, there was a tremendous outpouring of support for him. I think Bush has that opportunity.
``When the cameras go on George Bush and Barbara Bush, who is a wonderful person, and all the kids, the people are going to like this guy,'' Rollins says.
David Chagall, a California analyst, expects Bush to win skeptics over by refining President Reagan's policies to bring them into sync with changes in the political climate.
``The country is going back in line with old-style John F. Kennedy liberalism,'' Mr. Chagall says. That means tough on foreign and defense policy, but compassionate on domestic affairs.
Rollins says something similar. ``Bush will appeal to those [Dukakis] people by moving toward a gentler, kinder nation,'' he says.
ABC News exit surveys of more than 22,000 voters on election day show that it wasn't just Bush's tough rhetoric that turned voters away from the vice-president.
Even though they were not excited by Dukakis, they often rejected Bush, because of perceptions about his attitudes or his positions on issues.
Example: Large numbers of the ``anti-Bush'' voters were working mothers, people obviously concerned about issues like child care. One-third were people strongly concerned about the environment and education. One-fourth listed illegal drugs as a top priority.
During the campaign, Bush tried to address such concerns as child care and the environment. But his positive message was buried under the avalanche of negative advertising, such as an ad assailing the furlough of convicted Massachusetts murderer Willie Horton.
All this made Bush look like a carping candidate with little vision of the future - and millions of voters ran away from him.
Bush strategists knew this was a danger of their negative campaign. In late October, they wanted to move to a more positive message, to give voters a good feeling about Bush. But they were afraid to stop the negative advertising blitz - especially when polls showed a Dukakis surge in the last days before the election.
Pollster Breglio says: ``The first objective of a campaign is to win. Everything else has to be set aside to that objective.
``As we looked at the data, going into the last week of the campaign, we clearly saw that the populist message of Dukakis was having an impact. It was cutting.''
Bush's margin was dropping. His aides worried that Bush would squeak into office without a commanding victory.
``With that in mind, the decision was made to stay with those negatives,'' Breglio says. ``We had to remind people of the risk of Michael Dukakis. As it turned out, we ... almost lost some states anyway.''
Associated Press reports: Aides to Bush said yesterday that the President-elect is expected to appoint his budget director in a few days and will be considering his Cabinet choices after returning to Washington Tuesday.
Craig Fuller, co-director of Bush's transition team, declined to confirm a report that Richard Darman, former deputy secretary of the Treasury, was in line for the budget job.
Former Treasury Secretary James Baker III, Bush's campaigner manager and his choice to be secretary of state, ``will certainly have influence beyond foreign policy,'' Mr. Fuller said on NBC's ``Meet the Press.'' But other Cabinet officers also will influence foreign policy, he added, without identifying which ones.