Carefully rehearsed and professing eagerness to show their stuff before a national television audience, Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle arrived here Tuesday to await tonight’s debate.
Before leaving Austin, Tex., Democratic vice presidential candidate Bentsen told a send-off rally: “I have 90 minutes to explain to Americans why Mike Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen should lead this country, 90 minutes to describe our vision of America.”
Republican vice presidential candidate Quayle told reporters aboard his campaign plane that the debate would provide him his first opportunity since the Republican convention “to communicate with the American people in an unedited version . . . tomorrow night they’ll be able to see Dan Quayle as I really am, not as someone’s interpreted how I am.”
‘We Are Very Proud’
During a visit with campaign workers in Washington before heading to Omaha, Quayle was introduced by campaign chairman James A. Baker III, who reportedly had been unhappy with the vice presidential nominee’s performance. But Baker, smiling for the cameras, noted that in the 43 days since he joined the ticket headed by Vice President George Bush, Quayle had staged 130 campaign events in 35 states and told him: “We are very proud of the job you are doing for the campaign, and we are proud of the job you’re going to do in the debate tomorrow night.”
Both Bentsen, a senator from Texas, and Quayle, a senator from Indiana, spent many hours preparing for their confrontation.
Democratic staffers said their main task during practice sessions was to coach Bentsen, who is accustomed to the unlimited give-and-take of the Senate floor, to answer questions within the 1- and 2-minute time spots allowed in the debate. “We don’t have to teach him scripts for the issues, which is what I assume they are doing on the other side,” said Susan Estrich, campaign manager for Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis.
Quayle, who for the first time spoke on the record with reporters aboard his plane, said that his handlers had “asked every single tough question you could possibly think of” in rehearsals Saturday and Monday.
“I gave brilliant answers--they said so,” Quayle observed.