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Marilyn Quayle : Long Before Dan Quayle Joined the Ticket, She Was His Adviser; Some Say She Could Be the Candidate

October 05, 1988|PATT MORRISON | Times Staff Writer

Campaign reporters are by now familiar with the little squeezes she applies to her husband's arm when he appears to be talking himself into dangerous territory. As questioning heated up during one session aboard a campaign flight, Marilyn Quayle pointed to something out the plane's window, and Dan Quayle stopped talking to look. To reporters, it appeared pitch black outside.

"I didn't know I was doing it"--pressing his arm, she said, then. "Usually I'm trying to scoot him along because normally we're stopped at a rope line and we're late for an event and he'll stand there and talk forever. . . ."

On Her Own Schedule

She has been campaigning solo, swinging from Oregon to Texas to Connecticut, hitting a city for the usual three-pitch of fund-raiser, speech and local interviews--22 of those in one day, in Hartford and New York City.

The Bush campaign "did not anticipate having a wife they could put on her own schedule," a Quayle aide said.

On the campaign trail, her vigilance has sometimes relaxed. Although she prefers classical music while Dan and the kids "love rock 'n' roll," she cut a few dance steps recently when a staffer put on a Motown tune in the campaign plane. After a stop at Disney's Epcot Center, South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond strolled into the plane's press section and put on a "Goofy" cap, and Marilyn Quayle--briefly--did the same.

But some subjects seem off-limits for humor. An Indiana Democrat seated next to her at civic events during the 1976 and 1978 congressional campaigns saw she was pregnant both times. The second time, he quipped that she would probably be glad when her husband made it to the Senate, so " 'then you'll only have to get pregnant every six years.' She was not amused."

No More Anonymity

The anonymity in which she has driven around their McLean, Va., home exploded in the popping of balloons in New Orleans. Now, in press scrutiny engendered by a national campaign--jarring after down-home Indiana races and coverage by local media, some of which were part of the Quayle family's media network--she has taken on the national news media as if they, and not the Democrats, were the opposition.

Her children, ages 9, 11 and 14, were "overwhelmed," she said, from the moment they flew to the New Orleans convention, up to and beyond a press stake-out that recorded Dan toting out the trash.

"They were with us fortunately when things were at their nastiest, and as long as you have truth on your side, kids will handle anything."

Asked why a Gallup poll showed many Bush supporters rating Quayle as less qualified than Democratic opponent Lloyd Bentsen, she retorted: "It's obvious Dan Quayle was the victim of an incredibly vicious media attack . . . airing rumors as if they were fact." In tonight's debate, "the American people will have the opportunity to see him in unedited version."

How tough is Marilyn Quayle? So tough that people who know her say, with degrees of fondness or admiration, that she chose to have labor induced when her first child was due, so that she would not miss the bar exam. So tough that she showed up for the arduous test several days after giving birth, and took the exam sitting on one of those inflatable plastic cushions useful for new mothers and other postsurgical patients.

She passed.

She's the fourth of six Tucker children. "My parents tell me that practically the first thing I ever said was, 'I want to be a lawyer.' " With her father a pulmonary specialist and her mother a pediatrician who suspended practice to rear her children, "my parents expected all of us to have a profession."

(She turned out "excellent," opines her father, Warren. "A fine girl.")

Conservative, 'Moral' Family

Before she was born, her grandfather was a Republican circuit judge, and her uncle secretary of state. Neither talked politics to her--her grandfather played checkers with her--but her family was conservative, "very strict, very moral," a Quayle aide said.

From Purdue University, where she majored in political science, she moved into Indiana University Law School, clerking for the attorney general and taking night classes.

"She was a very good student, very conservative politically--she described herself as a snob, her own word," said the Indiana law school colleague, who remembers that as early as 1976, "I was told by everyone that Dan Quayle was being groomed to be President of the United States."

The Marilyn-Dan courtship was "a very torrid, quick romance," he said. "It was sort of cute when they first started to date."

But it "was multiple things," Marilyn Quayle says--shared moral and religious values, "and we both respected each other's intellect. Everything just fit so perfectly, we decided, why waste time?"

They married in November, 1972, and later set up law practice in Huntington, Ind. The shingle said Quayle & Quayle but it was Marilyn who took up the bulk of the practice, family and tax matters, while Dan was associate publisher at the family-owned paper there.

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