Quayle abandons race for GOP nomination

Former vice president acknowledges impact of Bush's fund raising

September 28, 1999|By Jules Witcover | Jules Witcover,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dan Quayle, acknowledging that "reality set in" about his dim chances for the Republican presidential nomination, dropped out of the race yesterday, citing the huge financial advantage held by Texas Gov. George W. Bush and the bunched-up calendar of primaries and caucuses in early 2000.

At a news conference in Phoenix, Quayle said he had enough resources to compete in the two earliest major tests -- the precinct caucuses in Iowa and the New Hampshire primary -- and thought he had a good chance of winning the latter, "but you need more than that."

He pointed to the scheduling of 18 more primaries within 30 days after the New Hampshire primary, now slated for Feb. 8.

Quayle said there would be "little time to reflect" on what he had achieved or to raise enough money to be competitive in such major states as California, New York and Ohio, all of them holding primaries March 7, against "a campaign where the front-runner would have $100 million to spend."

Bush's campaign has reportedly raised at least $50 million.

Should the Texas governor continue to raise money at the current rate, he could amass as much as $100 million for the 2000 Republican race.

Quayle, 52, did not mention the personal financial advantage of multimillionaire publisher Steve Forbes and his apparent willingness to match Bush's campaign spending.

Unable to compete

The opposition, Quayle said, convinced him that he could not be competitive over the long run.

"There's a time to stay and a time to fold," he said, "a time to know when to leave the stage."

He noted that the most recent CNN/Time poll had him running second to Bush, but it was a very distant second: Bush 53 percent, Quayle 9 percent.

Quayle's departure from the presidential contest leaves the original field of 12 Republican candidates reduced to eight.

Earlier, Sen. Robert C. Smith of New Hampshire, former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Rep. John R. Kasich of Ohio had all dropped out, and another, Patrick J. Buchanan, is on the brink of leaving the party to seek the Reform Party nomination.

In recent history, the Iowa and New Hampshire tests have been the first hurdles for presidential hopefuls, with voters there winnowing out those who fare poorly.

But this time, it is Bush's prodigious fund-raising ability that has persuaded several of his opponents to abandon the race.

Before quitting, Quayle had pointedly targeted the more conservative factions in his party for support, putting him most directly in competition with Forbes, Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, talk show host Alan Keyes and Buchanan.

Accordingly, they might be expected to be the chief political beneficiaries of Quayle's decision to drop out. But the departure of Quayle, a transplanted Arizonan, might also help John McCain, the state's senior senator.

Quayle, as a much-traveled vice president in the Bush administration, made much of his experience in foreign policy, a field in which McCain is a recognized authority.

Praise from a rival

McCain formally kicked off his own candidacy yesterday in New Hampshire. Speaking earlier yesterday in Annapolis, McCain called Quayle "a very good man" who had "added a lot to the debate" with his "foreign-policy and national security expertise."

"I hate for money to be the reason why people drop out of these races," he said.

Though Quayle sought as a candidate to focus on the present and the future, casting himself as the Republican voice of "family values," reminding voters of his criticism of the television character Murphy Brown, who bore a child out of wedlock, he was never able to live down his past.

His boyish and erratic demeanor and observations as a vice presidential candidate in 1988, and then as vice president, haunted him, inviting an endless "gaffe watch" that spotlighted a series of malapropisms and his unfortunate coaching of a young spelling bee contestant to put an "e" on the end of "potato."

Last spring, when Quayle was among the first Republican contenders to open a campaign office in Iowa, his state campaign manager at the time, Keith Fortmann, was optimistic about his chances to do well in the state but did not kid himself about the perception problem Quayle had to overcome.

"Six years ago they took Dan Quayle, shook him upside down, and all that came out was one little potato," Fortmann said then. But the fallout continued, he said.

"As the campaign manager, I can't send a press release out with a typo in it because the press will see it as Dan Quayle typing it himself."

In the heavily hyped Iowa Republican straw vote in August, Quayle ran a dismal eighth in an active field of nine.

Some expected that he would drop out then, but he insisted he would persevere and recover.

As vice president from 1989 to 1993, Quayle was one of the Republican Party's greatest fund-raisers in history. But after the defeat of the Bush-Quayle re-election ticket, he lost that magic.

Up against Bush and Forbes, he was, as he said, forced to face reality and get out.

Sun staff writer Karen Hosler contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 9/28/99

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