Sen. Dan Quayle, scrambling to alter negative first impressions of his performance in the vice presidential debate, charged Thursday that Sen. Lloyd Bentsen had “waffled, shuffled, ducked and dodged” the debate’s most crucial question, refusing to say whether he would continue the “extreme liberal policies” of Democratic presidential nominee Michael S. Dukakis if forced to succeed him as President.
“There is no question that I would maintain and build on the excellent policies of George Bush,” Quayle said of the leader of his Republican ticket. “But not my opponent. Three times he avoided an answer when his opportunity came. And the reason is (that) that’s the exact question he doesn’t like to answer.
“The big difference between us is that I’m proud of the man at the top of our ticket, and I’m happy to support his positions,” Quayle said. “I won’t run away from George Bush the way Lloyd Bentsen ran away from Michael Dukakis.”
With the post-debate assault, delivered in nearly identical speeches here and in Joplin and Springfield, Mo., the Quayle campaign sought to use Bentsen’s differences with Dukakis to shift the focus back to where Republicans believe the Democrats are most vulnerable: at the top of the Democratic ticket.
“Bentsen doesn’t dare say what he would do,” Quayle said, because of his glaring differences with “Tax-Hike Mike . . . the most anti-defense Democratic candidate since George McGovern.”
Quayle’s day started slowly, with tepid reactions from crowds in Joplin and Springfield and harsh greetings from banners like the one that read: “Dan, you’re no John Kennedy.”
But the audiences grew more supportive as his tone grew more harsh, and by the twilight rally in this Navy-dominated City of Five Flags it was as if Quayle could say nothing wrong.
“If the nation adopts his liberal policies,” Quayle said of Dukakis, “the City of Five Flags might have to run up another banner--the white flag.” The Pensacola crowd--"a community of true believers,” Quayle said--hooted in delight.