When Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis named Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen his running mate, a TIME cover story dubbed the Democratic ticket “The Odd Couple.” As Richard Stengel wrote in 1988, Bentsen was “more Bush’s twin than Dukakis’” — a patrician Texan with cosy ties to business and a country clubbish demeanor. Bentsen was a gamble, but a carefully calculated one whom Dukakis chose to increase his chances of wresting the Lone Star State away from George H.W. Bush, his Republican opponent (at the time, no Democrat had ever won the White House without taking Texas). However, in choosing Bentsen, Dukakis overlooked another powerful constituency: the millions of African American voters supporting Jesse Jackson. The civil rights icon took the move as a snub, and spent the days between the vice-presidential announcement and the Democratic National Convention making life difficult for Dukakis. In the end, as TIME wrote, the Governor had missed his chance to smooth things over with Jackson by minutes:
After making up his mind, Dukakis wanted to act on it. He tried twice that night to reach Bentsen in Washington, but the Senator had turned off the ring on his phone to keep from being awakened by reporters. Dukakis called again at 6:30 the next morning and popped the question. Bentsen turned off his electric razor and said yes. Dukakis decided he would go to his Boston statehouse office before informing anyone else. Thus it was not until after 8:20 that he rang Jackson, who by then was on his way to an airport to fly to Washington. The day before, Jackson had specifically told [Dukakis adviser Paul] Brountas that he would be leaving for the airport at 8 a.m. and that he did not want to read who the nominee was in a newspaper.
When Jackson learned of the Bentsen selection from a reporter, he was uncharacteristically silent. This one act seemed to him to symbolize all his complaints about the campaign: that Dukakis had never really considered him for Vice President, that he had never genuinely been consulted or included in the process. At a press conference a few hours later, Jackson began to get even. “I’m too controlled, too mature to be angry,” said the clearly angry Jackson. He then suggested that he might allow his name to be placed in nomination for the vice presidency. “The floor is wide open,” he said.