Speaking to an audience of 30,000 at an Indianapolis convention, barely a fortnight after being released from the second of two recent spells in hospital, a combative Mr Quayle stopped short of making a public declaration.
But aides said the former vice-president plans to file formal notice of his candidacy with the federal election committee next month, and make the announcement itself in a speech in April.
Mr Quayle's entry broadens the field of Republican probables to four - himself, the Senate majority leader, Bob Dole, the conservative Texas senator Phil Gramm, and Lamar Alexander, the former governor of Tennessee and education secretary in the administration of George Bush.
But that number could grow, and fairly quickly. Pat Buchanan, the right-wing columnist and commentator whose 1992 challenge caused Mr Bush huge embarrassment, is hinting he will run again. Several prominent governors, including Pete Wilson of California and William Weld of Massachusetts, are mulling over bids of their own.
Further ahead, the plans of General Colin Powell, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, are a mystery.
In his speech, delivered without notes or a teleprompter, Mr Quayle sketched out a now standard Republican programme of a balanced budget, a greater role for the states, and no further deployments of US troops abroad under United Nations command - but larded with references to the "family values" on which he campaigned in 1992.
For all his efforts Mr Quayle has failed to shake off the image of intellectual feebleness and a predisposition for gaffes which has dogged him ever since his surprise selection as Mr Bush's running mate in 1988.
But he has the strong backing of the Christian right, a growing force in Republican politics and likely to be especially influential during the primary season.Reuse content