WASHINGTON -- Senior White House aides insist they're eager to have Vice President Dan Quayle on the 1992 ticket, but they apparently don't want his staff in the back room.
Quayle aides were notably absent when administration political strategists met in the clubby surroundings of the White House mess not long ago to review preliminary plans for President Bush's re-election effort.
One White House official said the failure to invite a Quayle aide was simply an oversight. But others say Mr. Quayle's chief of staff, William Kristol, feels that he was deliberately kept away by aides to White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu.
Mr. Sununu, who convened the March 25 meeting, is expected to take the lead role in directing the re-election campaign. Mr. Bush authorized his aides to begin making plans for the election, still 19 months away, but did not attend.
Those present included Commerce Secretary Robert A. Mosbacher Sr., likely to become the campaign's titular head; pollster Robert M. Teeter, the president's chief campaign strategist; and business executive Frederic V. Malek, expected to oversee day-to-day operations of the re-election committee when its doors open later this year.
Also on hand were Republican National Committee Chairman Clayton K. Yeutter, budget director Richard G. Darman, White House political aides and GOP consultant Charles Black.
One participant said the apparent snub of the Quayle staff was "no big deal." He pointed out that Mr. Bush's 1988 media consultant, Roger Ailes, who will assume the same role in next year's campaign, also was not present.
News accounts of the meeting, reporting complaints from Republican women that the Bush campaign would be run exclusively by white males, were "totally overblown," claimed the Bush political adviser, who spoke on condition that he not be identified.
Mr. Bush has already announced that he would choose Mr. Quayle as his running mate if he decided to seek a second term. Aides say he will formally declare his candidacy sometime early next year.