Write-in Lee Iacocca? That's the message being spread in New Hampshire by the No. 2 man at Chrysler, Vice Chairman Bennett E. Bidwell. In speeches last month, to Vermont and New Hampshire auto dealers meeting in Bretton Woods and Dixville Notch -- the little town which reports its returns first -- New Hampshire native Bidwell said, "If I still lived in New Hampshire . . . I'd write in Iacocca's name on the ballot of either party."
Bidwell said that while his boss said he wouldn't take the presidency if it were offered, a successful write-in would "send a message" to the other candidates to address the issues and "no more pussyfooting . . . . The politicians would understand the message if somebody like Lee got 15 to 20 percent of the votes."
Chrysler spokesman Baron Bates said Iacocca was aware of Bidwell's speeches but had not authorized them and was not trying to back into the presidential race via write-ins.
Greg Schneiders, the Washington political consultant who launched a draft-Iacocca movement last year and saw it wither and die, said he thought Bidwell's speeches may signal a serious write-in effort. "It's clearly different from the situation a year ago," Schneiders said. "Back then, we got unmistakable messages that if anyone at Chrysler got involved in an Iacocca campaign, Iacocca would fire him. Now his vice chairman is up in New Hampshire urging write-ins."
Political veterans may remember that Henry Cabot Lodge won the 1964 New Hampshire GOP primary as a write-in while serving as ambassador to Saigon.