Quayle Begins Presidential Bid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 15, 1999; Page A4
HUNTINGTON, Ind., April 14 Former vice president Dan Quayle returned today to this small town where he was raised to launch a bid for the presidency that he says will be a repudiation of the "dishonest decade of Bill Clinton and Al Gore."
Standing before thousands of screaming, cheering supporters chanting "Q2K, Q2K!", with his wife Marilyn at his side, Quayle declared, "I will seek and win the presidency of the United States."
He portrayed himself as the persistent underdog, who won against-the-odds elections to Congress in the 1970s and 1980s and defied the "experts" by being chosen as George Bush's running mate in 1988. "The experts at the time said we didn't have a chance, and I said watch me and we won!" Quayle said of his various victories, as the crowd packed into Huntington North High School's gymnasium exploded in applause.
The politician who was ridiculed for using a television character, Murphy Brown, to symbolize the moral decay of American society vowed to run a campaign that stressed values and morality. His targets, he said, will be "self-anointed" '60s-era counterculture elites who have mocked people of faith as fanatics, derided patriotism and obscured truth.
Quayle believes that many Americans have come to see his 1992 Murphy Brown speech as not only right but also as a cultural cornerstone in the debate over traditional family values. What brought him ridicule seven years ago will sweep him into the White House in 2000 because Americans are yearning for moral leadership after so many years of Clinton, he believes.
"We are at the end of a dishonest decade of Bill Clinton and Al Gore," said Quayle, who is kicking off a week of campaign events here, in South Carolina, New Hampshire and the District. "It's time to reclaim the values that made America great."
Later, he added: "Remember, Murphy Brown is gone, and I'm still here fighting for the American people."
In focusing on such matters, Quayle seeks to energize the social and religious conservatives who dominate party primaries and caucuses in many states. Publishing heir Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes, conservative activist Gary Bauer, Sen. Bob Smith (N.H.) and television commentator Patrick J. Buchanan are also fighting for the same base.
None of the 2000 candidates, including Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole, can match Quayle's resume of elected public service -- a fact that he hopes will distinguish him with voters. Quayle served in the House and Senate a combined 12 years and spent another four years as vice president.
In many ways, Quayle's familiarity among voters is as much a curse as a blessing. Many still remember him as the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time politician who became the butt of jokes and a favorite target of late-night talk show hosts. He has consistently placed in single digits in polls, far behind Bush and Dole.
In his speech here, Quayle urged people to reject the pollsters and pundits who have diminished his chances. "The presidency is not to be inherited," he said. "The presidency must not be bought. It must be earned, and I intend to earn it!"
Even in Indiana, though, there are mixed feelings about a Quayle candidacy. Quayle was raised here and called the Hoosier State home until he left office in 1993 and moved to Arizona to teach, start a political action committee and write books.
"Dan Quayle is still very popular here," said Indiana GOP Chairman Mike McDaniel. "There are people here who still believe in 95 percent of what he says. But there are also a lot of people who don't believe that the national media is going to let him up off of the mat."
Because of doubts about his electability, many in the state are lining up behind Bush or Dole "because there's just the feeling that we want to win," said McDaniel, who is neutral for now. He noted that at a Lincoln Day dinner in Hamilton County, where Quayle used to live, Quayle finished third in a straw poll behind Bush and Dole.
The people of Huntington, in the northeast corner of the state, wanted to leave no doubts about how they felt about their favorite son. Huntington is a town of about 17,000 people, and it seemed as if one-third of them had packed into the high school gym to show their support. They waved signs, a band belted out "Jump, Jive an' Wail," and Quayle made a smoke-machine entry worthy of Apollo Creed in the "Rocky" movies.
Even though some prominent state officials are supporting other candidates, most notably Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, who is with Bush, Quayle has the support of the state's GOP committeeman and committeewoman, and former senator Dan Coats is serving as his national chairman.
"It is time for America to elect a president worthy of our trust," Coats said, introducing Quayle. "It is time for America to elect a president who lives convictions and will fight for our values. It is time to elect Dan Quayle as president of the United States."
Besides values, Quayle said foreign policy and tax cuts would be centerpieces of his campaign. He mocked Clinton and Gore for their foreign policy, for diminishing the country's stature internationally and for allowing America to be dragged into "every civil war" around the world.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company