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Strategists Craft Positive Image : Quayle Campaign Turns From Survival to Offense

September 01, 1988|BOB SECTER | Times Staff Writer

BATON ROUGE, La. — As Dan Quayle launched the second week of his tumultuous GOP vice presidential campaign Wednesday, the subject turned to potato chips. Zapp's potato chips.

Ron Zappe, the fast-rising munchies czar of the Bayou State, took center stage at a campaign rally here to credit the 41-year-old Indiana senator for the rapid growth of his 3-year-old Zapp's chips empire. Though critics have attacked Quayle for a scant legislative record, Zappe said he owed much of his success to an innovative jobs program co-authored by Quayle that enabled the company to hire and train unskilled workers with government assistance.

"The Good Lord gave me the faith, the bank loaned me the money and Dan Quayle gave me the job training partnership," Zappe told about 4,000 cheering supporters in "Pete's Palace," the Louisiana State University basketball arena named for the late LSU great Pete Maravich.

Signs of Turnaround

Such testimony was just one of several signs that the Quayle campaign, mired in controversy since its inception, is beginning to emerge from survival mode and go on the offensive as strategists craft a more positive, forceful image for the candidate.

Instead of fending off questions about his National Guard service, Quayle spent the day shaping a new role for himself as point man for Republican assaults on the image and vision of Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee.

'America Not in Decline'

"The American people will have a very clear, fundamental choice, a choice of whether they want to have the defeatist liberal policies of the past or they want the enlightened, can-do conservative policies of the future," Quayle told the rally. "The defeatists, they talk about managing our decline. America is not in decline."

Quayle accused Dukakis of advocating a ban on offshore oil drilling, a particularly sensitive topic in an economically distressed state where offshore oil operations comprise the largest industry. "By golly, you would never elect a liberal Massachusetts-style Democrat as your governor, so why would you elect him as your President?" Quayle asked a few hundred supporters who greeted his campaign plane when it landed at the Shreveport airport.

The more confident tone follows a week in which Quayle complained repeatedly that press obsession with his military record and other controversies had obscured his message. But extracting that message from Quayle has sometimes been difficult. When asked to stray from his area of expertise--national defense--he has often appeared unprepared and stumbled over clearly unfamiliar topics.

Quayle also has had problems fitting his message to his audience. Speaking to a Republican breakfast in South Dakota last week, Quayle made a passionate argument for a continuation of the Reagan Administration's military buildup, but failed to mention agriculture or the drought which has ravaged crops in that state.

Draws Polite Applause

Similarly, on Wednesday, a lengthy discussion of Soviet missile capabilities and the need for a space-based missile defense drew only polite applause from the students at LSU.

But they had a very different reaction when Quayle brought up something closer to home--the annual LSU-Texas A&M football grudge match to be played this weekend.

"Let me tell you that when you run for vice president you get down to the nitty-gritty and the important facts of life," he said. "And I've brought a couple of them with me today. 1986, LSU 35, Texas A&M 17. 1987, LSU 17, Texas A&M 3."

The crowd went wild.

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