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Analysis: Lamar Alexander's Iowa Coup

Former Tennessee governor has never stopped running for president

By Bill Schneider/CNN


WASHINGTON (Nov. 28) -- For one Republican candidate, the 1996 presidential campaign never really ended. It just merged seamlessly into campaign 2000.

Lamar Alexander started running for president the minute Bill Clinton got elected. Alexander has a major fund-raising operation. He's been to Iowa and New Hampshire several times this year. And this week, he nabbed a very big prize.

Last year, candidate Alexander told reporters in Iowa, "I've been here 80 days, more than any candidate, so I've run a traditional grassroots campaign. So we'll see how that works versus this mudslinging, media blitz."

Alexander came out ahead of the mudslinger Steve Forbes in last year's Iowa caucuses, but he still ran third behind Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan.

That got him to New Hampshire, where once again, he got squeezed out in the rivalry between Dole, the establishment candidate, and Buchanan, the insurgent.

Alexander and Branstad

This time, the former Tennessee governor is not taking any chances. He has both state and federal political action committees (PACs), grandly labeled the Campaign for a New American Century. His PACs have raised more than $1 million.

Alexander's got an issue that's at the top of the voters' agenda, education. After all, he used to be secretary of education in the Bush administration.

On Monday, Alexander announced a very big catch. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will become national chairman of Alexander's political action committee. That's Iowa, as in the Iowa caucuses, as in the place where the 2000 race begins.

"We're going to work together to raise two million dollars to help elect Republican candidates, to help set a national, conservative, common-sense Republican agenda, and to focus our party's attention on restoring our public schools," Alexander said.


Branstad is only 51, but he's in his fourth term. In fact, he's the nation's senior governor. He just stepped down last week as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

How's that for contacts? As for credibility on education, Iowa happens to be one of the best educated states in the country. And Branstad is chairman of the nonpartisan Education Commission of the States. Branstad gives Alexander credibility.

"He [Alexander] was the first governor to bring education to the top of the agenda," Branstad told reporters.

After 15 years in office, Branstad gets a 57 percent positive job rating from Iowans, 75 percent among Republicans. Last year, Branstad endorsed Dole and got him off to a good start in Iowa.


Branstad is retiring after next year. That'll give him plenty of time to campaign.

Just to make sure, Alexander signed up Brian Kennedy to be political director of his PAC. He managed Branstad's 1994 re-election.

Alexander's got an issue, an operative, a PAC and this week, the biggest fish in the Iowa GOP pond. Great catch, Lamar. You reeled in the political Play of the Week.

Not long after Clinton got re-elected, a new bumper sticker came out, with a plaid background and "2000!" printed on it. Get it? Get it? You know, this guy doesn't miss a beat.

In Other News:

Friday Nov. 28, 1997

Analysis: Lamar Alexander's Iowa Coup
Tamraz Considers Running For Office
Golf, Food Mark Thanksgiving For Clinton

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