Dukakis advised the Clinton campaign to spend less time preparing for debates on topics she already knows well, because the real winner of the election would be, in his opinion, the campaign with the strongest field organization.
“This is not the first time you’ve done this,” Dukakis said of Clinton, noting that most political debaters have had years of practice. “And sure, it’s very important, but lots of other things are important in campaigns. Including your field organization and the people that are working for you.”
He advised Clinton to focus more on dealing with Trump's unorthodox approach to debating.
"You've got to be spontaneous, feel spontaneous. It's going to be interesting to see how she deals with the Trump style," he said.
In his own campaign 30 years ago, Dukakis, who was the longest-serving governor of Massachusetts, had a 17-percentage-point lead over Republican presidential nominee George H.W. Bush after the Democratic National Convention.
By the second presidential debate, held at UCLA, he came off to voters as unfeeling when responding to a question about the death penalty and his wife. CNN's Bernard Shaw asked, “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?”
When Dukakis responded instantly, “No, I don’t, Bernard. And I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life,” reporters and voters were shocked. He cited the inefficacy of the death penalty, but the public saw his response as cold.
He told Klein and Karl on "Powerhouse Politics" that he found the question fair, and didn't realize how he had done in the debates until someone else told him later. He cited his own over-preparation as the reason for this second debate flop. In this case, his logical and formulaic response did not prevail over the show of emotion that spectators were expecting.
In the end, Clinton’s main challenge and focus should be on persuading voters to truly evaluate their opinion of Trump, he said.
“This guy has no business being president of the United States," he added.