Quayle says foes failed to do him in

August 21, 1992|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- Dan Quayle tried to undo four years of negative publicity last night by presenting himself as a regular guy from Middle America who has been attacked because of his traditional views.

"I know my critics wish I were not standing here tonight; they don't like our values, they look down on our beliefs; they're afraid of our ideas," the vice president said in accepting the Republican nomination for a second term. "When someone confronts them and challenges them, they will stop at nothing to destroy him."

With his place on the Bush ticket now secure, Mr. Quayle proclaimed to his foes: "You have failed: I stand before . . . the American people -- unbowed, unbroken and ready to keep fighting for our beliefs."

His performance was the highlight of a weeklong effort here to distinguish the man his aides call "the real Dan Quayle" from the gaffe-prone bumbler who has been lampooned for so long that many Americans don't think he's competent to assume the presidency.

Mr. Quayle, 45, described himself as a small-town boy from Indiana who went to public schools, played Little League and shared a room with his brother in the family's two-bedroom house.

The house was featured in a 4-minute file clip that also included shots of the vice president as a little boy on roller skates; courting his future wife, Marilyn; and shooting baskets with his three children.

Not unlike the family imagery some felt was invoked so powerfully by Mr. Bush Wednesday night, the strategy was to demonstrate the steady, average, likable side of Mr. Quayle while ignoring his comfortable circumstances as heir to a publishing dynasty.

The vice president went beyond Mr. Bush's effective family photo, however, to suggest that he is under siege by "Hollywood and the media elite" because of the family values he represents. He makes clear he considers the Democratic ticket of Bill Clinton and Al Gore to be part of the plot.

"The gap between us and our opponents is a cultural divide," hsaid. "It is not just a difference between conservative and liberal; it is a difference between fighting for what is right and refusing to see what is wrong."

But even Mr. Quayle's closest supporters were doubtful he would be able to make more than modest headway in changing an image that has already been so firmly cast and continues to be reinforced with new material for comedians.

In a television interview Wednesday night for example, Mr. Quayle noted that he and President Bush had both "over-married."

It was not exactly the compliment to their spouses he probably meant it to be.

"I don't think it's possible to recast your image when you are already as well-known as he is," said Roger Stone, a Republican political consultant who worked on the Bush-Quayle campaign in 1988.

In last night's speech, Mr. Quayle went head-on at the most famous of his recent gaffes: directing a school child to spell the word potato with an "e" on the end.

Noting that Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore are being positioned as "moderates," he said: "Well, if they're moderates, I'm a world champion speller."

has often used this self-deprecating approach to take the sting out of his mistakes, and sometimes to send a barb back. On Wednesday he reminded an audience that Mr. Clinton had challenged him to spell the word "liberal."

"Well, I can spell liberal," he said. "C-L-I-N-T-O-N-E."

He also recalled the "You're-no-Jack-Kennedy" line that Democratic vice president nominee Lloyd Bentsen used against him with such devastating impact during their 1988 debate when he likened himself to the assassinated president.

He pointed out that Mr. Clinton had tried to gain "credibility" by comparing himself with Ronald Reagan.

"I know Ronald Reagan," Mr. Quayle said, as the crowd screamed in recognition. "Ronald Reagan is a friend of mine. And Bill Clinton, you're no Ronald Reagan."

Mr. Quayle has to do more, however, than get people laughing with him instead of at him, or even to see him as a victim. With Mr. Bush's re-election prospects considered a tough uphill fight, the vice president has to make sure questions of his competence don't add to the president's burden.

Even the delegates to this convention are not convinced he would be the best choice to head their ticket in 1996.

An Associated Press survey of 53 percent of the 2,210 delegates here, showed their favorite by far is Housing and Urban $l Development Secretary Jack F. Kemp. Mr. Kemp was chosen by 34 percent of those responding, compared with about 9 percent for Mr. Quayle.

Meanwhile, there won't be any two-for-the-road campaigning for Mr. Bush and his vice president as the Democrats have done.

consider that a waste of resources," said Charles Black, a senior adviser to the Bush-Quayle campaign.

The Republican ticket mates will make one joint appearance today in Gulfport, Miss., then go their separate ways, with Mr. Quayle hitting the less glamorous back roads and performing the fund-raising chores that will earn him political chits for 1996.

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