Democratic vice presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen has well-known differences with Michael Dukakis over Contra aid, the MX missile and school prayer. But reporters covering his just-ended Texas swing found another one.
Lloyd Bentsen is a pedal-to-the-metal guy.Dukakis fidgets at his driver when his car edges above Massachusetts' 55 mph speed limit.
But the Texas senator, told how long his entourage would take for a drive from Brownsville to Mission, revealed his motoring style. "I'd make it a lot faster if the Secret Service weren't around," he said.
Lloyd Bentsen is a Texan who doesn't like to waste time. He's up early, does his campaigning on schedule, and gets it finished on time, though that's sometimes late in the evening.
His walk and his gestures, which seem stiff on Capitol Hill, make more sense in the Texas summer sun. "There's not a lot of wasted motion," observed one aide.
And he's doing something on the road that reporters who cover him in Washington almost never see.
He's having fun.
More often than not, Bentsen strolls back to the press section of his plane and tells reporters of the last event: "That was great."
When the campaign jet goes nose-up on takeoff, the television crews bowl an orange up from the back of the plane. After a week of failed attempts, they scored by getting one into the cockpit.
Bentsen, who had been casually monitoring the progress of these efforts, grabbed the fruit and took out his pen. "Aft-to-Cabin Award," he wrote, and he signed it, dated it, and rolled it back. The orange was mounted to the ceiling, where it hung as a trophy until the end of the trip Sunday night.
Rarely quotable and known for his attention to detail in the Senate, Bentsen now seems to relish making those quick quips that ignite campaign rhetoric, and he's even cracking a few jokes.
When reporters groaned about the length of the nine-day trip, Bentsen smiled. "I get time-and-a-half after five days," he said.
Hearing that George Bush said the Republicans would fight like pit bulls, Bentsen replied: "There'll probably be enough bull to go around."
At midweek, after Republican George Bush picked 41-year-old Indiana Sen. Dan Quayle, the 67-year Bentsen wasn't going to let himself be seen as the old man of the campaign. He increased the dumbbell weights for his morning treadmill exercise from four pounds to five pounds.
"It's not the miles on you, it's the depth of the tread," he said of the "age gap."
After a tedious session of satellite feeds in a Dallas television station, Bentsen cleaned up and, emerging from his makeup, shouted, "Hey, remember me. I'm the 41-year-old guy."
Bentsen and his wife of 45 years, Beryl Ann, were together almost constantly. He always introduced her as "B.A. - that stands for Bentsen's best asset." The former model would sometimes fuss over his hair if it was out of place.
One morning in East Texas, the two campaigned separately until she rejoined him while he was doing some interviews. It took a moment for him to spot her. "What a good lookin' woman you are - are you spoken for?" he exclaimed.