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Quayle Tests The Presidential Waters In Iowa

By Bob Franken/CNN


DES MOINES, Iowa (July 14) -- In Iowa, if you hold a political rally, the presidential candidates will come. And Dan Quayle has been coming here quite a bit, doing everything but officially announcing he is a candidate.

"Clearly, I am going to put myself into a very strong position to be able to make a decision to run for president in 2000," the former vice president said during a recent interview with CNN.

And in recent polls here in Iowa, Quayle makes a decent showing. But he still must contend with what some call the "potato problem," a reference to an embarrassing spelling error that contributed to a malaprop-driven perception that Quayle is not to be taken seriously.


"I know, the potato thing is still there, and it's always going to be there, but if that's my biggest political mistake, I'm in good shape," Quayle has said.

But it's a mistake that has become a symbol of Quayle, vice president. In four years he never shook the image of a lightweight, and observers say Quayle has his work cut out for him still.

The Des Moines Register's Davis Yepsen said, "He took a pretty black eye. And you can get hit so hard sometimes it leaves a permanent scar. He's got to try to change that and the way you do that is to start winning elections."

Quayle is trying to mobilize Christian conservatives, who have long been his base. So, when he bashes the Clinton White House, he talks about character and truth.


"Now the Clinton Administration, they talk about building all these bridges. I'd like for them to build a bridge to intergrity," Quayle said during a recent speech.

But also essential to the Quayle strategy is putting the ridicule in the past. "I don't miss some of that national media. I don't miss Jay Leno, or David Letterman," he said.

With the comedians focused elsewhere, Quayle believes he can quietly repair his credibility.

Quayle needs all the time he can get. His job? To get rid of the smirks that often come at the mention of his name and try to wipe away an image that many consider indelible.

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