NEW ORLEANS -- Young, conservative and handsome, Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana jumped on the 1988 Republican ticket Tuesday in a political gamble trumpeted by a senior adviser to George Bush as 'a bold stroke across generations.'
Weeks of intense speculation ended in one dramatic moment as Bush punctuated a welcoming speech to supporters along the steamy banks of the Mississippi River with an announcement he earlier had not planned to make until Thursday.
To cheers and expressions of surprise, Bush not only announced his selection of a running mate, but thrilled the crowd by calling the 41-year-old Quayle -- standing unobstrusively nearby -- to his side for a debut of the GOP ticket.
'Dan Quayle is a man of the future,' Bush declared, 'a young man born in the middle of this century and from the middle of America. He's a dynamic, young leader for the future of our party and the future of our country.'
With that, the last blank of the 1988 presidential race was filled. Bush had made a calculated decision that youth, charisma, conservatism and geography were the assets that placed Quayle ahead of others considered for the nod.
Quayle, a sandy-haired father of three, energetically accepted the invitation extended by Bush slightly less than three hours earlier in a telephone call that ran five to six minutes.
'It is George Bush's America that we will work for,' he said at the end of his riverfront acceptance speech. 'We will work hard and believe me, we will win because America cannot afford to lose.'
The first 'baby boomer' to be selected to run for national office by a major party, Quayle pumped up the rally by taking up the themes Bush has chosen for the fall contest against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and his running mate, 67-year-old Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen.
The selection won praise from President Reagan. 'His talent, intellect, family and energy will be valuable assets during the campaign,' the vacationing Reagan said in a written statement, 'and I know he will be a great vice president.'
Quayle who won quick support within the party, although there was harsh reaction from some outside groups because of his conservative record.
More difficult was the fact that despite his proven record as a popular vote-getter in Indiana, Quayle is little known outside the state. However, Bush campaign officials were optimistic Quayle will help the ticket in the Midwest, where the GOP faces difficulties.
While the move ensures the Republicans will be unified when their national convention ends Thursday, it remains to be seen whether Quayle can help Bush win support from blue-collar and ethnic voters who proved so vital to Reagan in 1980 and 1984. Polls show those voters leaning toward Dukakis.
Nor is it at all clear that Quayle, however photogenic or youthful, can help Bush narrow the gap with women or young people, although campaign officials undeniably had high hopes riding on the prospective nominee.
Calling Quayle 'a leader for the future' and 'an excellent campaigner,' said campaign chairman James Baker. 'He is, as you all know, the first baby boomer on the national ticket and represents, I think, a bold stroke across generations.'
'He is someone of the younger generation,' added campaign pollster Robert Teeter. 'He has a very attractive family with a wife who has been a professional woman and I think that he will be someone who will help the ticket not only with women but with all voters and particularly with voters of that generation.'
In the end, campaign officials indicated Quayle was selected not only on the basis of his positive attributes, but an absence of negatives. Without mentioning names, sources close to the Bush campaign said someone like Quayle, -- with a legislative record and proven electability, if not a household name -- was preferable to someone like Senate GOP leader Robert Dole, with well-known liabilities.
However, Quayle the unknown will have to establish a national political identity at the same time Bush is working toward a similar objective: moving out of the Reagan shadow.
The Quayle selection assuages conservatives, some of whom suspiciously view Bush as a moderate. Teeter denied polls were a plus for Quayle, but intimated they might have shown that other candidates would have hurt the ticket.
Rep. Jack Kemp, whose 1988 presidential bid faltered early, called Quayle 'a dynamic conservative activist.'
'It's a good choice,' he said. 'It's a strong ticket.'
Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who was mentioned in the veepstakes despite protests that he did not want the job, called Quayle 'a splendid man, skilled in participating in the budget process' and other legislative functions.
'He is not a lightweight,' Simpson said in apparent response to observations that Quayle is telegenic but hardly cerebral. 'He is a heavyweight.'
Bush arrived Tuesday morning with his mind made up and waited almost four hours before offering the No. 2 spot to Quayle, who had been tagged as a favorite of the right wing, in part because of his staunch anti-abortion stand.
From a bedroom in the large white plantation house designated Naval Support Activity Quarters A, near Belle Chasse Naval Air Station, Bush called Quayle at 2:06 p.m. CDT to invite him onto the ticket.
'He said, 'You are my choice, you are my first choice, you are my only choice,'' Baker later recalled for reporters. 'He said, 'We are going to look to the future and we are going to win by looking to the future.''
In fact, Quayle learned of his selection after Bush whispered the secret in Reagan's ear and informed his wife, Barbara, and a handful of senior advisers.
Campaign press secretary Sheila Tate said Bush tipped his hand to the staff only after she held up a scrap of paper with Quayle's name written on it and told him, 'When you're ready, here's the person I'm betting on.'
Breaking his silence, Bush replied, 'You're right.'
Before calling Quayle, Bush also called the also-rans. Baker said all those rumored or actually considered for the job were telephoned, but refused to say how many calls had been placed.
Tate said Bush made the announcement Tuesday because 'he felt it was the time to do it.' Baker said Bush 'laid out a gameplan for this announcement process some time ago' and insisted, 'He remained true to that gameplan.'
In fact, however, Bush said as late as Monday night, in at least two telephone calls to the convention, that he was still leaning toward the original plan of announcing his choice during a Texas delegation reception Thursday morning.
Two factors appeared to weigh against that timetable.
The first was the prospect of generating additional media exposure for Bush and his vaguely known running mate. Several key campaign advisers had used this argument in pushing for an earlier announcement, in part to avoid having the choice of a running mate overshadow Bush's critical speech to the convention Thursday night.
The second was a ripple of discontent from Dole, a front-runner for the v.p. nomination. His complaint Monday that the selection process was demeaning was widely interpreted as criticism of Bush's decision to string along not only the media, maintaining an air of suspense over a convention otherwise devoid of surprises, but the candidates themselves.
In a year when 'the family' and 'traditional values' are being touted by both parties as campaign issues, Quayle can be expected to appear frequently with his wife, Marilyn, and three children.
However, his conservative record is certain to face sharp attack.
Dukakis campaign spokesman Dayton Duncan pointed out that Quayle 'voted against the plant-closing bill, he voted against the civil rights restoration act of 1984, he voted against exempting Social Security from the Gramm-Rudman cuts, so he certainly comes from the right wing of the Republican Party.'
Dukakis has championed the plant-closing notification bill that Reagan vetoed once, then let a second version become law to avoid political trouble for Bush and the GOP this fall.
Irene Natividad, chair of the National Women's Political Caucus, also took aim at the newly formed GOP ticket, asserting Bush -- whose support among women lags far behind his backing among men -- has 'sent signals to a lot of women who happen to be in the middle that he doesn't care.'
'Quayle has consistently voted against women's reproductive choice. ... He voted against school lunches, against food stamps, against job training,' she said.
Quayle, who rode to the Senate in 1980 on the coattails of Ronald Reagan, has consistently supported administration economic policies and is an outspoken supporter of the 'Star Wars' anti-missile program.
Bush lauded Quayle as an expert on national security, despite the latter's reservations about the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty that looms as one of Reagan's most historic achievements. Quayle's record on aid to Israel and arms sales to Arab countries could cause problems with Jewish groups.
Like Bush, he is a man of inherited wealth. His grandfather, Eugene Pulliam, was proprietor of the Indianapolis Star and the Arizona Republic and the family has a huge trust from its holdings. However, Baker said the Democrats, whose own nominees have known financial comfort if not privilege, will be in no position to make an issue of wealth.
'If you want to measure the net worths of these two tickets -- put them side by side -- I think they'd come out pretty darned close,' he said.
With a faint resemblance to actor Robert Redford, Quayle brings to the ticket a telegenic quality and experience on a range of issues from his service on the Senate Budget, Armed Services, Labor and Human Resources committees.
At the same time, his conservative record is certain to face continuous attacks by the Democrats, who fired their first shot moments after the announcement was made.
Dayton Duncan, campaign spokesman for Dukakis, pointed out that Quayle 'voted against the plant closing bill, he voted against the civil rights restoration act of 1984, he voted against exempting Social Security from the Gramm-Rudman cuts, so he certainly comes from the right wing of the Republican Party.'
Dukakis has trumpeted the plant closing bill, requiring business to give 60-days notice of shotdowns or massive layoffs. Reagan vetoed a trade bill containing the provision, and when Congress passed a stand-alone version, the president -- in a move widely seen as an effort to defuse the issue -- let it become law without his signature.
Illinois Gov. James Thompson, who was mentioned early as a possible Bush choice who firmly rejected the suggestion, said Quayle 'is a good choice. ... I'm particularly pleased he's from the Midwest. He's a superb campaigner. He adds a lot to the ticket.'
Quayle was born into a prominent publishing family Feb. 4, 1947, in Indianapolis. His grandfather, Eugene Pulliam, was proprietor of the Indianapolis Star and the Arizona Republic.
Quayle graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., in 1969, got a law degree from Indiana University Law School in 1974, and was elected to the House in 1976.
After arriving from Washington aboard Air Force Two, Bush had telephoned the potential candidates who had lost out in the vice presidential sweepstakes -- including two of the favorites in the speculation, Robert Dole and Jack Kemp.
Quayle, a strong conservative and a hawk on defense and foreign policy issues, is telegenic, popular and a tough debater.He is, however, not deemed an intellectual and is unknown nationally.
Walt Riker, spokesman for Dole, said the Senate Republican leader was told by Bush that he was one of the two finalists.