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Quayle considers a spell in the White House

WASHINGTON - To the delight of the media Dan Quayle, the former vice-president, said yesterday that he was 'thinking' of running for the presidency in 1996, writes Patrick Cockburn.

Much ridiculed for his inability to spell potato and his attack on a popular television soap for undermining family values, Mr Quayle has never concealed his White House ambitions.

Encouraged by the sales of his book Standing Firm, which was both an apologia for his four years as vice-president and a mean-spirited attack on possible Republican rivals, Mr Quayle is said by friends to be close to making his decision. Although his reputation will take some living down, the irresistible rise of US vice- presidents in the last 40 years (see graphic), suggests that Mr Quayle may yet be a strong contender for the Republican nomination.

Six of Mr Quayle's eight immediate predecessors as vice-president, went on to win their party's presidential nomination; four became president.

According to his aides he will wait until after the November Congressional elections to make his final decision.

As the campaigning season gets under way after Labor Day on 5 September Mr Quayle will campaign for Republicans around the country, assessing the extent of his own support. He will also make the keynote speech next month at the annual conference of the religious right umbrella group, the Christian Coalition.

The growing strength of fundamentalist Christian forces within the Republican Party, especially at grassroots level, should boost the chances of right-wing, Pro- Life contenders such as Mr Quayle. It will, equally, handicap the more liberal likely contestants, such as the present front-runner, Senator Robert Dole.