Remember, Dan Quayle told a gaggle of school kids who gathered by the roadside near here to wave at his traveling campaign caravan, this is America. Anything is possible.
“Now, if you study hard, if you work hard, someday, you never know,” the Republican vice presidential candidate said whimsically, “you might be taking a bus.”
Those were words to live by Thursday as Quayle wheeled across eastern Ohio in a bus caravan, courting rural conservatives against an autumn backdrop shot through with Americana: a white-steepled courthouse across from the Ben Franklin 5-and-10, brass bands, cheerleaders and enough platitudes for a month of Sunday sermons.
And, if it was a contradiction for the candidate of the future--as he bills himself--to ride into the town square here in a Model A Ford, which he jumped off his bus to mount, who was to notice?
This, after all, is what the Republican vice presidential candidate describes as “real America,” where half the town will show up on a Thursday morning to greet the first national candidate to knock on its door since William McKinley, in which year no one remembers.
Here in McConnelsville, easily half of the 3,500 residents did turn out, crowding onto the courthouse lawn and spilling down Main Street way past the hardware store to catch a glimpse of Quayle.
And Quayle responded with fervor.
He talked about the fall colors.
“We have gold and yellow and some red and, believe me, those are Republican colors,” he exulted. “Bold colors, bright colors, future colors!
“You know what our opponents’ colors are? Gray and dark gray!”
He talked about jobs, unabashedly stealing Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis’ line.
“Those are good jobs at good wages,” he said at his first stop of the day, in Marietta, referring to jobs created under the Reagan Administration.
But much of the time he simply reveled in the good will of Ohioans who stood in blustery fall winds to greet him--particularly schoolchildren, who appeared to prefer Quayle to the classroom.
“Listen to your teachers,” he told elementary school pupils straddling a sidewalk in Lowell. “You know what? You might grow up and run for vice president some day!”
“Listen to your parents,” he added two stops later in Beverly to a group of high school students. When they remonstrated, Quayle, leaning out of the window of his bus, microphone in hand, added paternally: “You’re going to realize how smart they really are when you get a little older.”
As he wound through the countryside, small town after small town, Quayle reminded voters of his Indiana heritage and of what he called Dukakis’ “conceited liberal orthodoxy.”
And townspeople along the way in the mostly Republican areas hooted and hollered.
Quayle has spent most of his candidacy in the Midwest, and he expects to spend much of the rest of the campaign here as well, traveling to little towns where political figures rarely tread but which guarantee local coverage.
But Quayle is not above joking about the small-town nature of his campaign.
“What major metropolitan urban areas are we going to tomorrow?” he asked reporters, tongue in cheek, as he traveled to Marietta from Missouri late Wednesday night. “Zanesville? An urban area. Lot of folks there in Zanesville.”