Quayle: wide appeal but untried on national stage
DAN Quayle is handsome enough to compare with Robert Redford, young enough to call George Bush ``pops,'' conservative enough to make Jerry Falwell happy, and just experienced enough to become the next vice-president of the United States. All of which, GOP tacticians hope, will ensure that the White House remains in Republican hands come January. Though presidential candidates protest that they seek a running mate who would make a first-rate president, the selection of a vice-presidential candidate is, first and foremost, an exercise in political strategy. And as such, Senator Quayle's selection as Mr. Bush's running mate constitutes a dramatic effort to strengthen support for the Republican ticket where it needs it most.Skip to next paragraph
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``He's got a track record appealing to all kinds of people - conservative Republicans, Reagan Democrats, women, moderates,'' says Mark Helmke, a GOP political consultant who has closely watched Quayle's political career. ``Quayle is a very versatile politician.''
Above all, he is a very conservative one. Quayle served only two terms in the House of Representatives before riding into the Senate on Ronald Reagan's coattails in 1980, unseating Indiana's venerable liberal senator, Democrat Birch Bayh, in the process. Since then, he has established himself as one of President Reagan's most loyal supporters in the Congress, generally voting up and down the line with the administration on matters of foreign and domestic policy.
Moreover, an early reputation as a photogenic featherhead - a stigma that stuck, perhaps unfairly, during his years in the House - has been largely dispelled by his efforts on the Senate Armed Services Committee, where he has emerged as a leading advocate of a strong military and of high defense expenditures. Most recently, Quayle led the fight against a defense spending bill that President Reagan ultimately vetoed, in part, because its funding levels were too low.
In other areas, too, Quayle has established himself as an active presence in the Senate. Earlier this year, he strengthened his conservative credentials by leading the fight in the Senate against a bill requiring 60-days notice of plant closings. In 1986, Quayle championed the nomination of South Bend, Ind., lawyer Daniel Manion to be a federal appeals court judge. After a nasty partisan feud, the nomination was approved when Bush cast the tie-breaking vote.
So his selection as the party's vice-presidential nominee is a salve to those conservatives who had been less than delighted at the thought that the moderate George Bush might select a similarly inclined running mate. ``I couldn't be more grateful,'' gushed Mr. Falwell. Added Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R) of New Hampshire: ``It will energize conservatives and that's very important.''
More than that, however, the Bush campaign is hoping that Quayle's popularity with women and moderates in Indiana will carry nationally and will provide Bush with much-needed boost among those groups. And, as important as that appeal is, many Republican strategists believe there is nothing about Quayle's candidacy that is quite so compelling as his potential appeal to young people. At 41, Quayle would be one of the youngest vice-presidents in US history if sworn into office in January.
``They are not a monolithic bloc, if someone could get the lion's share of the [youth] vote, it's an automatic win. I do think there will be a certain amount of pride and excitement generated in large segments of that group because this is the first time that anyone in that generation has run for national office,'' says Bush campaign manager Lee Atwater. ``He's a phenomenon, which is going from nowhere to somewhere.''