THE 1992 political year has given those who still regard Dan Quayle as a lightweight the shocking reminder that every vice president since 1952, with the exception of Spiro Agnew, has become the presidential nominee of his party.
Further, the Washington Post's Bob Woodward and David Broder point out in their widely read series on Mr. Quayle's political odyssey that five of our last nine presidents had once been vice president.
That may reassure supporters of Quayle who believe their man has the stuff to lead the country. They say the still youngish vice president has come a long way from the days when he was a mediocre student at DePauw University who spent his most joyful hours on the golf course. They will tell you their man has grown in office - enough to be fully ready to succeed President George Bush in 1996, or earlier should that become necessary.
The Woodward-Broder assessment does not give Quayle that much. But it portrays a husband and wife team that has been, and continues to be, politically formidable.
The Post writers found in Quayle a superb tactician who expertly positioned himself to be tapped by President Bush as his running mate and who, along with wife Marilyn, is already preparing to run for the presidency.
Mr. Woodward and Mr. Broder didn't discover much depth in Dan Quayle. But they did find a man who stretches his mental muscles in an effort to grasp issues and deal with problems. Their Quayle is a politician that voters should take seriously.
Woodward and Broder interviewed more than 200 persons for their series - people who grew up with Quayle, who served with him in Congress, who ran campaigns for and against him, and who work with him in the Bush administration.
These people, according to the writers, agreed that Quayle would bring to the White House a basic decency and an even-tempered disposition, that he would bring in an able staff, and that he would bring to the presidency "Ronald Reagan-like conservative convictions about the evils of bureaucratic regulation and high taxes."