Tales from the Trail

President Dan Quayle? Yes, it almost happened, for a few hours back in 1991.

Dan Quayle’s endorsement of Republican Mitt Romney in Arizona on Tuesday brings to mind Quayle’s tenure as vice president for President George H.W. Bush back in the early 1990s, and the time he almost assumed the powers of the presidency.

Here’s what happened.

Bush suffered a rapid heartbeat while jogging at Camp David on May 4, 1991, and was rushed to Bethesda Naval Medical Center for treatment.

At the time, there were immediate fears that Bush had a heart attack. Communications among White House staff and the press corps were difficult in this pre-Blackberry era, and there was a lot of confusion.

At the hospital, Bush was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation related to a thyroid disease. Doctors thought they might have to give his heart an electric jolt to shock it back into a normal rhythm, which would have required Bush to go under anesthesia, making him incapacitated for a brief period. White House staffers drew up papers invoking the U.S. Constitution’s 25th amendment, which would transfer power to Quayle as acting president.

Americans were generally not thrilled with this prospect, since Quayle had once famously misspelled “potato” as “potatoe” for schoolchildren and had for the most part not distinguished himself in the job a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Arizona sends a Quayle back to Washington

The famous Quayle name is back in politics. Ben Quayle, the son of former Vice President Dan Quayle, won a comfortable victory in Arizona’s strongly Republican Third Congressional District.

In his first run for office, the 33-year-old beat back a challenge from conservative Democrat John Hulburd to win the seat vacated by veteran Republican Rep. John Shadegg by a nearly 12-point margin.

His father served under senior President George Bush, and is perhaps best remembered for famously misspelling the word “potato” while campaigning in 1992.

Ben Quayle’s famous last name a double-edged sword in Arizona House race

David Schwartz takes a look at the latest Quayle seeking to go to Washington.

Ben Quayle knows how to spell potato.

The son of former vice president Dan Quayle also knows that his famous last name is a double-edged sword when running for elected office.

“You get name recognition right off the bat,” said Quayle, vying to represent the Third Congressional District in Arizona. “It also opens you up to more scrutiny and immediate ridicule. Some people enjoy picking on Quayle again.”

In his first run for office, the 33-year-old is regarded as the front-runner when voters in his Republican-heavy district go to the polls Nov. 2 to replace veteran GOP Rep. John Shadegg. Quayle faces Democrat Jon Hulburd.

Political dynasties shift in election-year tremor

After the November election, there will not be a Kennedy in Congress for the first time in almost half a century because Representative Patrick Kennedy, the son of the late Senator Edward Kennedy, has decided to retire from his Rhode Island seat.

“My life is taking a new direction and I will not be a candidate for re-election this year,” Patrick Kennedy said in a video announcing his decision nearly six months after his father, the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate, died.

Of course there is still time for another Kennedy to step forward and declare intentions to run for office, but we haven’t heard any whispers.