You could say that Ben Quayle was destined to follow in the footsteps of his dad, former Vice President Dan Quayle. Consider: He was born just three days after Dan was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1976. As a kid, he often accompanied his dad, by then a senator, to the White House to meet with President Reagan, who liked to fill the kid’s hands with jelly beans. And now, as the young Arizona Republican gets his sea legs in his own first term in Congress, the elder Quayle is offering a guiding hand when needed. “He’s always there as a sounding board,” says Ben. “I’ll run things by him every once in a while,” he adds. Usually the message is a simple one: “Stay true to your core convictions, and base your votes on those, and listen to your constituents.”
In some ways, it’s like Dan is back. Ben is eager to make his mark on the issues while also staying focused on voters back home. And they share an interest in trade, Asia, and Latin America.
In other ways, there are differences. Tops: Ben is part of the new GOP majority, while his dad served in the House minority. And today’s politics and technology are light-years ahead. Ben gives the example of running for office. His dad told of how he used to have shoe boxes filled with the names of supporters; staff would call and urge them to vote. Near election day, Dan asked his son, “Do you guys have your shoe boxes?’” Ben: “I go, ‘Yeah, they’re called computers nowadays, and we have a database.’ And he goes, ‘Oh yeah?’ He was dead serious.”
Maybe the most important shared quality is their ability to duck the slings and arrows tossed by critics, Dan during his 1988 vice presidential bid and throughout his four years at the White House, and Ben during his first campaign in 2010. “When you have the last name ‘Quayle,’” he says, “you know the arrows are going to be right at you.”
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR.