Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Hopefuls Seek Photo-Op With Yeltsin

The men in the Kremlin have always been rather good at looking ahead to the rather predictable changes of incumbent at the White House. Mikhail Gorbachev made a point of getting to know George Bush while Reagan was still in power, and Boris Yeltsin arranged a photo-op with Bill Clinton before the 1992 elections.

So how should President Yeltsin organize his time in Washington, to take out a little insurance in case his friend Bill is back in Arkansas in 1997? (Having already got to know Vice President Al Gore, maybe Boris has already started.)

Most of the smart money says that as long as the economy keeps on growing, Clinton remains the likely victor in 1996. But with his opinion poll ratings as low as 38 percent, in spite of a booming economy, and his tactical victory over the crime bill hardly compensating for what looks like a strategic defeat on health reform, Clinton makes an inviting target for the Republicans.

There are 26 months still to go, but the 1996 presidential election campaign is getting under way early. The long-expected political return of Dan Quayle arrived predictably last week with the first of those old familiar flip-flops from the comic star of the Bush presidency.

His friends and spokesmen first said he would "imminently" declare his candidacy for the 1996 election. And then they said he wouldn't: He was only "thinking about it."

Quayle was expected to declare his candidacy at a Labor Day rally in his home town of Huntington, Indiana. Now the announcement is slated for later in September, at the annual meeting of the militantly conservative Christian Coalition.

With effective control of the Republican Party in eight states, the Christian Coalition will play a powerful king-making role. But they also know that Quayle suffers from what political analyst Bill Schneider has dubbed "the stature gap."

No matter. Even though William Bennett, President Reagan's former education secretary and drug czar, said last week that he would not run in 1996, the Republican lists are starting to throng. Robert Dole, 71, the Republican leader in the Senate, has already won the first straw poll in Iowa.

Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, the arch-conservative who led the battle against health reform, has already collected a $17 million war chest. And it is not for his health that Lamar Alexander, former governor of Tennessee and Bush's education secretary, is criss-crossing America from east-to-west and north-to-south and running a monthly television show called "Republican Town Meetings."

Dick Cheney, the former defense secretary, and James Baker, former White House chief of staff and secretary of state, are sounding out supporters. Former Housing Secretary and football star Jack Kemp has already launched his own campaign vehicle called Empower America.

However, the Republican selection process will only really begin when two key questions are answered: whether retired General Colin Powell will run, after banking the $6 million for his book contract, and whether Governor Pete Wilson of California will win re-election in his state in November.

The interesting feature about this host of Republican contenders is that Yeltsin already knows most of them from the Bush era. Nonetheless, given the power of the photo-op in American politics, most of them will find some way of sharing a flashbulb with Yeltsin in Washington this month.