Former VP Prepares For 1996 Run; Faces Considerable Skepticism
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Eager to put questions about his health to rest and prove his doubters wrong, former Vice President Dan Quayle plans to visit more than 20 states in the coming weeks and formally enter the 1996 presidential race by spring.
Less than two weeks after having his appendix removed, Quayle planned a speech Saturday night in Indianapolis to detail the timetable and likely themes of his bid for the Republican nomination. ``He is clearly back,″ said Mark Goodin, a senior adviser to Quayle’s nascent campaign organization.
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Prior to the speech, Quayle’s office issued a statement saying he will file candidacy papers by Feb. 21 and make a public announcement of his candidacy by mid-April. Filing the papers would allow him to begin fund-raising _ and would send a signal to Quayle supporters that he is serious about running.
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Just a few weeks shy of his 48th birthday, Quayle has been urged by many associates and former aides to sit out the 1996 race and work on rebuilding his public image. But the former vice president, according to those familiar with his thinking, is convinced a Republican will defeat President Clinton next year and believes the depth of his support is underestimated.
Two Republicans have already filed declarations of candidacy and plan formal announcements by early March: Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole recently formed an exploratory committee, and several of his aides were courting support at this weekend’s Republican National Committee meeting.
Other GOP possibilities include Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderate who supports abortion rights, and commentator Patrick Buchanan, a staunch conservative who bruised Quayle’s old boss _ George Bush _ with an aggressive 1992 primary challenge. A few Republican governors also are weighing the race.
As Bush’s vice president, Quayle was often the butt of comedians and pundits because of gaffes or perceived missteps, from misspelling potato during a classroom visit to his attack on television character Murphy Brown for having a child out of wedlock.
But on the latter issue _ and its broader theme of promoting traditional family values _ much of what Quayle said in that 1992 speech is now the staple of politicians in both parties, including Clinton.
Quayle’s focus on family issues, and his fervent opposition to abortion, have helped him build a loyal following among cultural conservatives who are active in GOP affairs.
``But he faces a big challenge in expanding that base,″ said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. ``He is well-liked in the party but a lot of people do not take him seriously as a presidential nominee.″
After leaving office with Bush two years ago, Quayle returned to Indiana and took a low profile. But by the middle of last year he began talking about the 1996 race and had planned to be actively campaigning and fund-raising by now.
But he was hospitalized in November and December for treatment of blood clots in his lungs, and then was back in the hospital early this month to have his appendix removed. Doctors said the conducted the operation after detecting a benign growth in the appendix.