Former Vice President J. Danforth Quayle, as he now prefers to be called, made a few headlines in 1999 when he briefly considered running for president. But the money wasn't there, not to mention the poll numbers, which weren't even in the same county, and so before the frost hit the pumpkins in his native Indiana, a good four months before the spring 2000 caucuses and primaries, he was gone, saying as he departed, ''There's a time to stay and a time to fold.''
This year, however, as a seemingly endless parade of improbable candidates show up in the lists for an election 20 months away, the time may have come to ask the dealer for a card and see if there's any way of monetizing that four-card flush.
And so Mr. Quayle is expected to announce this afternoon that he is forming an exploratory committee to see what kind of appetite there might be in the Republican Party for a Quayle candidacy. ''I'm tanned, rested, and rested,'' he quipped to reporters in Phoenix, where he is an investment banker. ''And I've still got the hair.''
The hair is there, but tinged with gray (''You know, 68 is the new 59''), and the once über-boyish politician now exudes a certain gravitas, though not too much. ''Romney's mistake,'' he said, ''was to brand himself as a severe conservative, but I believe what Americans want is a lenient conservative.
''The guy who'll give you a ribbing for going on food stamps instead of finding a niche in a consulting firm somewhere, but not try to throw you in jail or anything.''
''Danforth has a bit of a reputation as a lightweight,'' said Arizona Senator John McCain, asked for comment, ''but we should remember he was vice president, and we expect our vice presidents to entertain us, as I've always said. I believe he's acquired a new maturity since those days of 20 or 25 years ago. He certainly plans to bomb Iran at the earliest opportunity.''
Money is apparently more forthcoming now, as the heavy Republican hitters search for a nominee who can convince voters that he believes two strongly opposed things at the same time on issues like immigration and gay marriage.
''What we've learned from the Obama administration,'' Mr. Quayle said, ''is that somebody who's relatively light in physical weight can assert himself pretty strongly in office, even to the extent of dictatorial rewriting of his own health care law in defiance of our Constitution. What I bring to the table is more of a lightness of being. It's really kind of incredible.''