Elkhart, Ind. — When Dan Quayle was elected vice-president last week, he left a daunting task for his successor in the United States Senate. The new senator will have to establish himself on Capitol Hill while campaigning back home for the 1990 election. Two years later, when Mr. Quayle's original Senate term would have expired, the seat will be up for grabs again.
The idea of running two statewide campaigns in the next four years has made some Indiana Republicans balk.
US Rep. John Hiler, a highly regarded conservative here in Elkhart, Ind., all but ruled himself out of the running even before last Tuesday's election, saying the post would be too much of a burden on his young family.
Late last week, the state's best known Republican - Lt. Gov. John Mutz - said he might not want to put his family through another campaign so quickly. Mr. Mutz just lost the governorship in a hotly contested race last week.
Many other Indiana Republicans, however, have left the door wide open to the possibility of taking the post.
Perhaps the most intriguing possibility is Quayle's wife, Marilyn. A nonpracticing lawyer and now veteran of the presidential campaign, she is said to be very interested in taking the job. Her name is mentioned frequently in this state, although some political observers doubt she will be picked.
``I think that was largely a smoke screen,'' says Brian Vargus, director of the Public Opinion Laboratory of Indiana University at Indianapolis. By making Mrs. Quayle such a prominent possibility, the GOP leadership would help calm infighting among other potential candidates.
Those candidates include: US Rep. Dan Burton, a former assistant to Quayle; state Rep. Dan Coats; former Indiana secretary of state Ed Simcox; and Marion County prosecutor Stephen Goldsmith. Mr. Simcox and Mr. Goldsmith are also well known in Indiana and regarded as good campaigners. Mr. Goldsmith ran as Mutz's running mate this year. It was his first political loss.
By law, the final decision falls to outgoing Gov. Robert Orr, and it may not come immediately. Technically, the governor has until early January when he leaves office to make his pick.
``He's looking for the best qualified [candidate],'' says Dollyne Pettingill, the governor's press secretary. ``It's obviously going to have to be someone with a lot of energy.''
Indiana voters have not been particularly kind to appointed senators. Since 1913, when voters instead of state legislatures began to elect US senators, three men have been appointed to fill out unexpired terms. Only one was voted back into the office.
Given the difficult campaigning demands of the current opening, Indiana Republicans are eager to pick a winner.
Adds Mr. Vargus: ``Whoever gets the seat has to hit the ground running.''