Morry Taylor, Driven To Seek Presidency Campaign 1996

September 02, 1995|By Jeff Taylor | By Jeff Taylor,Knight-Ridder News Service

BANGOR, Maine -- If nothing else, Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., industrialist Morry Taylor may be the only guy who is truly driving to be president.

The other day, as he is likely to do, he shooed away an aide and hopped behind the wheel of his 30-foot Land Yacht and took off with a jolt.

"Good morning, ladies," he barked cheerfully through a loudspeaker to a pair of townsfolk, who looked on in astonishment as the Taylor-for-president caravan of six motor homes weaved through their village.

Mr. Taylor's aides get a real hoot every time he does this. But campaigning is no joke to the ambitious 50-year-old millionaire.

Maurice Taylor Jr., a native Detroiter who has a second home in Quincy, Ill., where his company is based, is backing his presidential run with a hefty chunk of his $40 million fortune.

In that sense, he is this year's Ross Perot -- minus the twang. He may lack the famous name and the Perot-sized bank account, but he hopes to make up for it with strategy.

He aims to canvass every corner possible in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and Maine to woo disaffected voters who are fed up with politics and are not sold on anybody else.

For Mr. Taylor, life has become an exhausting roll through one small town after another, an act of chasing church steeples on the horizon.

Each stop is the same: maybe a news conference on the courthouse steps, a few handshakes with a spartan crowd of supporters, then an appearance at some cafe where the locals look up with puzzled faces at this smiling stranger thrusting a hand their way.

Essentially Mr. Taylor, a Republican, is trying to outdo the Perot camp of the '92 election. He figures that if he shows well early on, he might just have a chance. But his prospects seem as dim as the taverns in the quaint New England villages where he has just spent the week.

As the caravan pulled into Belfast, Maine, for instance, not too many people seemed to know his name. Mr. Taylor hopped out to greet reporters, and a few button-wearing supporters camped out in front of the Frank D. Hazeltine American Legion Post No. 43.

At the bar inside, where empty tall-necks stood on the counter, 43-year-old Mike Perkins was talking with friends Richard Pomeroy, 45, and Joe Aldus, 28. Only Mr. Perkins had heard of candidate Taylor.

"I don't care what party they're from," Mr. Perkins said. "They're all the same: They aren't going to do anything." He spent 21 years in the Army and complains that now he cannot find a job.

Mr. Taylor hopes to win the hearts and minds of people like Mr. Perkins with a government-bashing theme. He promises to get rid of waste and bureaucrats in budget-cutting conquests -- and not to take any guff from Congress.

So far, Mr. Taylor's rivals for the nomination do not see him as a serious threat, and the Republican Party is not taking him seriously. His name remains fuzzy to voters who have heard of him, and most have not. And he has only got so much money to spend.

Mike Murphy, a media adviser to Michigan Gov. John Engler and GOP presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, expressed the sentiment of others in the party: He is "not too concerned about Morry."

Nonetheless, Mr. Murphy holds a special interest in Mr. Taylor's candidacy. He grew up next door to him.

"I couldn't believe it was the same guy," Mr. Murphy said. While he admires his former neighbor, Mr. Murphy said he has not seen anything to make him think Mr. Taylor, president and chief executive of Titan Wheel International, can be chief executive of the country.

"I think Morry's going to sell more wheels than he's going to get votes," he said.

But Mr. Taylor remains undaunted, cruising the back roads of America. "They can take their swipes," he said. "I've got a thick skin."

And as he explained his reasons for running, he sounded every bit like that other rich, plain-talking egotistical business mogul who frets for the country's future.

"This government of ours, we're going broke," Mr. Taylor said, before taking a shot at Washington insiders. "They've got a touch of the fever down there in Washington."

If he ever caught some bureaucrat paying $600 for a toilet seat or wasting money on other such foolishness, he said, "I'd fire that sucker right there."

In Bangor earlier this week, folks got an early dose of the Taylor sermon on bad government. But not without a few bureaucratic hitches of his own.

The day was scheduled to begin with an 8 a.m. appearance on a radio talk show. Mr. Taylor was to be the guest on a program called "Leo and Company."

Mr. Taylor and his road warriors had a problem, though.

They were lost.

After phoning the station for directions, they wandered into the offices of WSNV-FM, which bills itself as the Sunny 103.9, just a few minutes late. "Leo and Company" was eager to greet them. Leo Jonason and Charles Horne were the only two guys in the place.

In radio, this was as small time as it gets, something to which Mr. Taylor and company are growing accustomed.

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