Bush ship surges, but it still drags Quayle anchor. Revelations appear manageable - for now
Despite the uproar over Dan Quayle, the new Republican presidential ticket is proving popular with American voters. Poll after poll, including the newest Gallup survey released Wednesday, shows George Bush and Senator Quayle sporting a lead over Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen.
It is now apparent that Vice-President Bush rocketed out of the Republican convention in New Orleans with far more power than anyone predicted.
Larry Hugick, a Gallup official, says three things have happened in the past week:
1.Republicans have rallied to Mr. Bush and Mr. Quayle, despite earlier misgivings, with 90 percent now backing the ticket.
2.Support for the GOP has grown across the country, especially in the Midwest, where Quayle was supposed to help.
3.Voters in their 30s and 40s, the baby-boom generation, swung strongly behind the GOP, with 51 percent now favoring Bush.
Behind the positive news for the GOP, however, looms the Quayle controversy. Night after night, TV news shows dwell on Quayle's problems. Political experts admit they aren't sure how the drama will play out, but offer these views:
Should Quayle be dropped from the ticket?
A veteran analyst, Richard Scammon, says removing Quayle gets ``harder and harder and harder with each day that passes.'' He says, ``If Bush were going to dump Quayle, he should have done it at the convention.''
Dumping Quayle in the face of heavy criticism would make it look as if Bush had blundered in his first major presidential decision.
How serious is the Quayle flap?
Gallup found that 23 percent of the public has a less favorable opinion of Quayle because he may have used family influence to get into the National Guard at the height of the Vietnam war.
So Republicans are worried.
Is the vice-president nominee really that important on election day?
No, the experts say. When voters step into the voting booth, they are looking at the top of the ticket, not No. 2.
That's why many top Republicans think Bush would do better to tough it out, despite the current brouhaha. They believe that Quayle will eventually fade from view and the spotlight will go back to the two leading men.
But one concern remains: How will Quayle do when he must go up against the far more experienced Senator Bentsen in their national debate? A weak debate performance could renew the focus on Quayle late in the campaign.
Has any damaging evidence been turned up about Quayle and the National Guard?
Not yet. There's no smoking gun, no letter from Quayle's wealthy family demanding that he be put into the guard to avoid the draft.
What has come out so far makes Republicans uncomfortable, but it is manageable. For example, retired Indiana National Guard Gen. Alfred Ahner says a former guard general who was employed by Quayle's family newspaper asked for help to get Quayle into the guard. Mr. Ahner related his involvement this way to a TV interviewer:
``I went to personnel and asked if they had any vacancies, and they said they had some.'' General Ahner told them: ``Fine, hold one.''
``There was no influence used,'' Quayle says.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer, however, has now dug up old guard records showing that in June 1969, the Indiana guard was over its authorized strength by 52 members. Quayle got in on May 19, 1969.
How will the Paula Parkinson matter be resolved?
Former lobbyist Paula Parkinson, in a forthcoming issue of Playboy magazine, will reportedly claim that Quayle made advances toward her during a golfing trip to Florida in 1980.
Quayle, who is married with three children, retorts: ``I hope you all [meaning the press] are going to be a little bit careful about this because it is totally untrue.''
Bush aides were aware of the Florida trip before Quayle was chosen, but say they checked it out, and that nothing improper took place.
But Mr. Scammon observes that with the addition of the Parkinson report, the Quayle controversy now involves both sex and patriotism - a dynamic mixture that could keep things sizzling.
Are Republicans being treated unfairly?
Conservatives say yes. Columnist William Safire contrasts the treatment of Quayle with that of Mr. Bentsen, who tried to charge lobbyists $10,000 a plate to have breakfast with him after he became chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Bentsen withdrew the plan after the story hit the newspapers.
Conservatives also note that Mr. Dukakis held a student deferment while at Swarthmore during the Korean war. The war was over when he graduated in 1955, at which time he volunteered for the Army and served 16 months in Korea.