NEW ORLEANS — Vice President George Bush, in a decision that stunned Republican political strategists and some of his own supporters, Tuesday selected Dan Quayle, a relatively unknown 41-year-old junior senator from Indiana, as his vice presidential running mate.
In naming the staunchly conservative Quayle, scion of a rich and powerful family in a traditionally Republican state, Bush passed over a flock of better-known contenders who might have provided the ticket with greater experience, broader credentials and perhaps more political clout.
Yet Bush, who will accept the Republican presidential nomination at Thursday's closing session of the GOP convention here, called Quayle "a dynamic young leader for the future of our party, the future of our nation."
And President Reagan, who learned of the Quayle choice when Bush whispered it to him as the chief executive boarded Air Force One to leave for California on Tuesday afternoon, called it "an outstanding selection."
Bush and his strategists argued that Quayle's youth would attract baby-boom voters, his political philosophy would please conservatives, his Midwestern base would help with voters in critical neighboring states, his generally careful delivery would keep him out of trouble and his record of running well among women voters would help Bush with his worrisome gender gap.
Other strategists, however, including some delegates and some officials in his own party, worried that Quayle was not well-known outside his state, that Indiana offered only 12 electoral votes, which would almost certainly have gone to Bush anyway, that Quayle's political experience was limited and that his support would be confined to those whose philosophy matched his own.
Before naming his choice in a surprise announcement as he arrived here for the Republican National Convention, Bush telephoned others he had been considering for the vice presidential candidacy. Some, including California Gov. George Deukmejian, had told him earlier that they were not interested in the job.
Bush told Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, the Senate minority leader, that he was one of two finalists, the senator's spokesman, Walt Riker, said. "You can't go too wrong picking someone from the Midwest," Dole said later. "I've got a pretty good job now. Just give me five more senators, and I'll run the country from Congress."
Dole's wife, Elizabeth, another contender, said Bush had called her too and told her she would not be on the ticket.
Still another contender, Rep. Jack Kemp of New York, said Bush had telephoned him to say that "it was a very close call."
" 'Mr. Vice President,' " Kemp told reporters he replied, " 'I want you to know my support is unconditional.' "
Reagan also gave Quayle an enthusiastic endorsement:
"Dan was first elected to the Senate as part of the Reagan-Bush team in 1980," the President declared in a prepared statement. "He's a proven vote-getter. I've worked closely with Dan on a number of issues. He has been a leader in the Senate for a strong national defense, particularly the Strategic Defense Initiative, and proponent of innovative job-creation programs.
"His talent, intellect, family and energy will be valuable assets."
Liked by Women
Bush strategists said that the blond Quayle, sometimes described as a Robert Redford look-alike, would bring glamour to the ticket. Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III, who becomes Bush's campaign chairman Thursday, said polls show that Quayle does well among women and that he will help close the gender gap.
Quayle is a member of the baby-boom generation, which is coming into full political strength. As a point of possible appeal to those voters, GOP strategists suggested that Quayle offers a strikingly favorable physical contrast to 67-year-old Sen. Lloyd Bentsen of Texas, the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
The selection also appeared to be acceptable to the Republican Party's right wing, even though Quayle has not always strictly hewed to the conservative agenda on social issues. Sen. Gordon J. Humphrey of New Hampshire, who had said he would oppose anyone who did not measure up to his conservatism, was lavish in his praise of the ticket.
"I'm thrilled," Humphrey declared. "I couldn't be more pleased. I'm excited."
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, who had campaigned against Bush for the presidential nomination, called Quayle "a tremendous choice."
Another factor weighing heavily in Quayle's favor, sources said, was that in his Senate races he has been advised by both Robert S. Teeter and Roger Ailes, senior advisers to Bush. Moreover, the sources said, another Bush confidant, Treasury Secretary nominee Nicholas F. Brady, was high on Quayle.
In Indiana, however, political figures were surprised that Quayle was even in the running to be on the ticket and in fact thought he probably was preparing to retire from politics in a few years to run the Pulliam newspapers.