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Saturday, January 23, 1999 Published at 05:54 GMT

World: Americas

Quayle: underdog with habit of success

Dan Quayle wants top billing on the presidential ticket

By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

Former Vice President Dan Quayle, and now presidential aspirant, is used to being the underdog.

In 1976, he wasn't given much chance to take the seat of a 16-year incumbent in the House of Representatives.

When he launched his campaign, he was working as associate publisher of his family's newspaper, the Huntington Herald-Press, and practising law with his wife in Huntington.

[ image: Mr Quayle has strong support among conservatives]
Mr Quayle has strong support among conservatives
As a 29-year-old political newcomer, he was a long shot, but he won with 55% of the vote. Two years later, he was re-elected by the greatest margin ever achieved to that date in his district.

Four years later, he wasn't expected to unseat a three-term senator. He did, and was re-elected in 1986, by a record-breaking margin.

Now, even before he had announced his intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president, polls put him a distant third behind Elizabeth Dole and Texas Governor George W Bush.

Mr Quayle may have an uphill battle, but politically, he has several assets that will help him in his bid. He has name recognition, a core of support from the conservative wing of the party and good fund-raising skills.

For the past five years, he has been the Republican Party's top fund-raiser, which is very important with the increasingly front-loaded primary process. Candidates must raise more money earlier for a successful bid, and electoral experts estimate that a candidate must raise $20m to win the nomination.

In a pre-emptive strike, Mr Quayle has joined other conservative Republicans in attacking undeclared front runner George W Bush, saying in his first campaign letter that he would never use the words "compassionate conservative," a term Mr Bush uses to describe his moderate views.

The divide between conservatives and moderates highlights forces that have strained party unity during the impeachment process and will mark a crucial test for the party in the next election.

Family Values

Mr Quayle has strong credentials as a cultural conservative because he is credited with coining the term and raising the issue of "family values."

[ image: Family values made Mr Quayle a lightning rod for controversy]
Family values made Mr Quayle a lightning rod for controversy
In a May 1992 campaign speech, Mr Quayle criticised the television show Murphy Brown because the lead character, played by Candice Bergen, had a child out of wedlock. He said it fostered lax family values by "mocking the importance of fathers, by bearing a child alone, and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

Mr Quayle was widely criticised for the speech, and "Murphy Brown" dedicated an episode to mocking the speech and the man.

Despite the negative press attention and the election loss, Mr Quayle has continued to speak out for his "family views." It has endeared him to religious conservatives, who still support him in large numbers.

The conservative wing of the Republican Party is key in the nomination process, having strong representation in the state-level party apparatus, which is crucial in the nomination process.

Image Control

In 1992, some Republicans called on President George Bush to choose a new running mate because of widespread press attention to Mr Quayle's public speaking gaffes.

Several Internet sites are dedicated to poking fun at Mr Quayle, mocking him in his own words.

In May 1989, Mr Quayle addressed the United Negro College Fund, which is famous for the catch phrase "a mind is a terrible thing to waste."

Mr Quayle stumbled over the quote, instead saying: "what a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is."

In 1988, he transformed his own family values message into adults-only content, when he was quoted in US News and World Report as saying, "Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child."

And who can forget the celebrated incident when he misspelt the word "potato" in front of a class of school kids.

Conservative agenda

The press attacks and media ridicule have only endeared Mr Quayle to cultural conservatives, who often accuse the press and media of liberal bias.

Working hard to keep the sheen on his conservative credentials, Mr Quayle said he will push for a 30% across-the-board tax cut.

Looking forward to a shot at top billing on a presidential ticket, he said in an interview with the Indianapolis Star and News: "It's going to be different for me this time around, running for president. I will be in control. My agenda. My campaign. My staff."

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