GOP contenders ponder fate of Quayle supporters
By Kevin Landrigan/The Telegraph of Nashua
September 30, 1999
Web posted at: 4:14 p.m. EDT (2014 GMT)
NASHUA, New Hampshire (The Telegraph of Nashua, September 28) -- Dan Quayle was the last Republican vice president, but the impact of his withdrawal from the GOP 2000 presidential primary field in New Hampshire can be overstated.
"When you are at 3 percent in the polls, there's not a whole lot of support to go after,'' said Executive Councilor Peter Spaulding, state chairman of Arizona Sen. John McCain's campaign.
Despite being short on money and hampered by death watch coverage in the national media, Quayle still fielded a tight team of activists in New Hampshire that any campaign would fight to have, starting with ex-Gov. John H. Sununu and 1996 nominee for governor Ovide Lamontange.
Quayle's exit combined with Pat Buchanan's courting as the candidate of the Reform Party should begin a slow slide of the social conservative wing of the GOP toward a single candidate.
At the moment, magazine publishing magnate Steve Forbes appears to have the edge on becoming that candidate, but family rights leader Gary Bauer already showed with a fourth-place showing in the Iowa straw poll that he's got staying power too.
And there's radio talk show host and ex-United Nations ambassador Alan Keyes, a fiery orator who turns out large crowds to his speeches and a small-but-solid block of support in the polls.
Even McCain will claim some of that support, and did Monday with the endorsement of two Keene city councilors and a Cheshire County sheriff who had been leading Quayle's efforts in that part of the state.
GOP rival Elizabeth Dole said she, too, hopes to pick up some Quayle support and disputes Quayle's view that George W. Bush can't be beaten without $50 million in the bank.
"Money isn't the only answer; sure, it's a factor, but experience counts a lot, ideas, vision, your views on the issues,'' Dole said in a telephone interview.
Quayle and many working for him here became convinced that in time, Bush's lofty place in the polls will come down to earth, partly because Dole and McCain will remain strong contenders for moderate voters as the Feb. 8 primary approached.
With less than a month to go, social and fiscal conservatives torn between the other candidates – Quayle, Forbes, Bauer, Keyes and Buchanan if he was still around – would break to one of them.
"This primary could be won with less than 30 percent from a strong fiscal and social conservative,'' said Gordon MacDonald, Quayle's campaign director in New Hampshire.
Quayle, 52, appeared to be staging a rallying cry for that shift in vowing Monday to support the Republican nominee – whoever it is – and urging Buchanan and supporters to stay in the party to push conservative core principles.
Sununu said President George Bush's support for his son overwhelmed Quayle's fund-raising.
"The President owns the Rolodex,'' said Sununu, who served as chief of staff to ex-President Bush. "It's the Bush Rolodex. They have the first call.''
MacDonald said he does not believe Sununu or Lamontagne would be endorsing anyone soon.
"I'd be very surprised. We're all in state of shock,'' MacDonald said.
But many GOP activists suspect Forbes has the inside track on much of Quayle's support.
Both pushed for a deep tax cut, Quayle touting a 30 percent cut across the board cut and Forbes returning from his 1996 campaign theme, replacement of the code with a flat income tax.
Forbes also sought to change how he came across in 1996 – as a social moderate – by actively courting religious conservatives.
He has vowed if elected to ban partial-birth abortions and to impose an anti-abortion litmus test on all federal judges he would appoint.
Forbes has cast himself much like Quayle – as someone the Washington establishment doesn't want because of their determination to reduce the size of the federal government.
And Forbes has what Quayle never could get – millions of his own money to bankroll the campaign.
"I'd be lying if I said this wasn't a good day for us. I like the situation we are in,'' said Paul Young, a Forbes adviser and former executive director of the Republican State Committee.
"Forget what the polls say now, we weren't looking forward to having Vice President Quayle in this race. He has a wealth of experience and we clearly were after the same vote. Now it's up to us to convince them we are the real deal.''
State Rep. Robert Clegg, R-Hudson, said Forbes may be the only candidate who could challenge Bush but admits the super-wealth of the candidate bothers him.
"I'd really like to support someone who knows what it is like to scratch out a living,'' Clegg said.
"Your car breaks down on the road and it costs you $320. You or I may say, ‘Wow, how am I going to afford that.' To someone like George W. and Steve Forbes, that could be their daily allowance money.''
State Rep. Fran Wendelboe, R-North Hampton, first backed Dole and then went to Quayle due to Dole's pro-gun control views.
"I told my husband if anybody asks what I'll do now I will say, ‘I'm going to Disney World,''' Wendelboe joked.
"Seriously, I may sit this one out now.''