More than a year before any voting starts, the Republican presidential contest for 1996 suddenly began to shake out Tuesday: Bob Dole said he’s in. Dick Cheney said he’s out. And likely candidate Dan Quayle was ailing again, admitted to the hospital for an appendectomy.
Dole, the Senate majority leader, said he probably would move by early next week to take the initial step toward his third bid for the presidency. “We’ll be meeting later this week, early next week, on whether or not we should move ahead with what we call an exploratory committee, which is the next logical step,” the Kansas Republican said in an interview Tuesday on WFAN-AM.
“And I assume we’ll probably do that.”
Dole, 71, who ran for the Republican nomination in 1980 and 1988, has had his presidential ambitions fanned by encouraging hypothetical matchups in national surveys - including a Newsweek poll published this week that showed him beating President Clinton 48 percent to 38 percent - that show him to be the strongest Republican contender.
Meanwhile, after months of testing the waters across the country, former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney issued a surprise three-sentence statement announcing that he had decided “after careful consideration” not to become a candidate. “I look forward to supporting the Republican nominee for president in 1996.”
Aides refused to elaborate, but other Republicans said the 53-yearold former Wyoming congressman had found the prospect of raising millions of dollars and organizing a national campaign to be daunting. “I don’t think their Rolodex was that strong, and they knew it,” Republican consultant Eddie Mahe said.
And Quayle, also considered a likely contender, was admitted to Indiana University Medical Center Monday afternoon with an enlarged appendix. In remarks relayed by a spokeswoman, Quayle said he “just wants the thing out,” adding, “I don’t need it, anyway.”
Anne Hathaway, executive director of Quayle’s political action committee, Issues ‘96, said he would undergo the surgery today or Thursday and remain in the hospital about a week. He was discharged from the same hospital a month ago after treatment for blood clots in his lungs. While aides said he has almost fully recovered from that episode, he is still taking anti-coagulent drugs, which briefly delayed the surgery.