POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Watch for Quayle, Small-Town America
WASHINGTON (AP) _ If you live in a town the size of Hanoverton, Ohio, or Lakeland, Fla., or Maryville, Tenn., and haven’t spotted Dan Quayle yet, keep looking. He may be there soon.
Quayle is stumping through scores of small towns again this year, just as he did in his checkered 1988 campaign. But this time, the vice president and his lieutenants insist it’s not because Bush chieftains want to keep him in the backwaters - and out of the news.
Instead, they say, the vice president is out in exurbia by choice, penetrating big city media markets without the hassles of driving downtown.
″You can be in a small town 30 miles away and still be safely within the media market of a very large city,″ said an expatriate New Yorker on Quayle’s staff who now sings the virtues of small-town politicking. ″You get just as much coverage.″
It was not lost on the Republicans that Bill Clinton and Al Gore were soaking up saturation coverage in the out-of-the-way places through which their buscapades have meandered.
Besides, ″it’s better to tie up traffic in Hanoverton than Cincinnati,″ the Quayle adviser argued.
He insisted that no one was trying to hide Quayle.
″A mistake made in Minerva, Ohio, is just as damaging as a mistake made in New York, New York,″ he said, and ″a good message is the same as a good message in New York.″
Even the vice president of the United States doesn’t command 100 percent name recognition.
As Quayle walked into the First Baptist Church in Lakeland, Fla., on Sunday, he spotted a little boy eyeing him closely.
″I know who you are,″ the 3-year-old announced.
″Well, who am I?″ replied Quayle with a big smile.
″You work for George Bush.″
Quayle, recounting the exchange at a rally in Ocala, observed, ″That’s a smart Baptist.″
Andy Warhol’s dictum was that everybody is entitled to 15 minutes of fame. Catherine Stahl of Huntington, Ind., got 30 minutes’ worth.
That’s how long reporters were waiting outside Quayle’s boyhood home in Huntington, Ind., last Saturday. One by one, they gravitated to Mrs. Stahl to hear how she delivered swift justice to little Danny Quayle one day in 1950 for some misdeeds in her sandbox.
It seems that 3-year-old Danny threw sand in Susie Stahl’s hair three times. After Susie went bawling to her mother, Mrs. Stahl served notice on the miscreant that he would be spanked if he did it again.
Danny promptly put more sand in his playmate’s hair, and Mrs. Stahl made good on her threat.
″That little fellow just ran right across the yard, bawling home,″ she recalled. ″His mother never contacted me about that. She thought it was best to stay out of it.″
Danny ″never did anything after that,″ she added. ″He was a cute little guy.
Not content to share her memories with the media, Mrs. Stahl, 75, reminded Quayle of the spanking when he spotted his old neighbor.
″Tell them I didn’t deserve it,″ said the vice president. ″My mother always said I was a perfect child.″
″You did,″ Mrs. Stahl insisted.
″Well, don’t tell them what I did to deserve it,″ countered Quayle, laughing.
She confessed she had spilled the beans.
″You already did? It will be all over the press,″ lamented Quayle.
A heckler at a Quayle speech in Newport News, Va., tried to throw the vice president off his mark by shouting, ″Spell potato.″
But Quayle seems impervious to jokes about his spelling difficulties. He must realize he’s not the only orthographic underachiever around.
John Rutherford, an NBC producer, got a videotape back from a free-lance crew in Houston last week marked ″Busch″ and another after a Knoxville, Tenn., rally with ″Quail″ scrawled on the label.