Lamar Alexander kicks off second GOP bid without the plaid
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 9) -- Former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander officially declared his candidacy Tuesday for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, his second attempt at the White House.
In a chat session on CNN.com Tuesday night, Alexander talked mostly about the issues he hoped to build his 2000 campaign on -- "improving education, lowering taxes to help parents and strengthening defense against terrorism."
Alexander also touched on a wide range of subjects including abortion, the conflict in Kosovo, and the election of former wrestler Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota.
'I will push education harder'
Alexander is expected to be joined by a very crowded field seeking the GOP nomination that includes Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Elizabeth Dole.
As a former governor, university president and education secretary under President George Bush, Alexander argued that he had "more experience than the others in the new generation of presidential candidates."
During his 45-minute chat session, Alexander said the experience of his failed 1996 bid and the work he has put in since then will help him win in 2000.
"I will push education harder this time," he vowed. Alexander would deregulate schools, end teacher tenure and offer scholarships to let parents choose the school their child attends.
Alexander also sounded the popular Republican theme of tax cuts. He proposed a simpler tax code with two rates "that includes an $8,000 tax deduction for each child."
Alexander is likely to win support among social conservatives for his stance against legalized abortion, although he opposes "a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade" and instead favors a "state-by-state" approach.
He favors "strengthening national defense, especially against terrorists" but opposes sending U.S. troops to monitor a possible peace deal in Kosovo.
"We are the only ones who can deal with Korea and China ... let the Europeans take more responsibility for Kosovo," he said.
On a lighter note, Alexander joked that Ventura's election in Minnesota "is causing us politicians to go to the gymnasium more often!"
Ventura is an example that plain talk has encouraged more people to get involved in politics, he said. Alexander promised to run a positive campaign without personal attacks "except to defend myself if necessary."
Plaid shirt stays in closet
Alexander has exchanged his trademark red-and-black plaid shirt for a dark business suit.
"I hope that my message about education gets to be as well known this time as my plaid shirt did last time," he joked.
In 1996, Alexander's best showings were his third-place finishes in the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. He dropped out soon afterward.
Alexander's formal announcement in Nashville earlier Tuesday came as no surprise. He has never really stopped running since withdrawing from the 1996 campaign early in the primary season.
Still, he trails both Bush and Dole in the latest CNN polls.
A crowded field
The Alexander operation is well organized, and the former governor has already logged considerable time in the critical states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He says the experience of his failed 1996 bid and the work he has put in since then will help him win in 2000.
Republican Govs. Don Sundquist of Tennessee and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas were on hand in Nashville to endorse Alexander. Former four- term Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Alexander's national chairman, predicted his campaign could win in the Iowa caucus.
Alexander will hit the campaign trail with a weeklong trip around the country. He will return to his hometown of Maryville next Monday to talk with students at his old high school.
Sen. Bob Smith of New Hampshire and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan have announced their candidacies, and multimillionaire publisher Steve Forbes is expected to do so next week.
Bush announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee Sunday. His closest challenger in the latest CNN polls, former Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole, will announce her committee Wednesday.
Other hopefuls who have taken an initial step toward running by forming exploratory committees are Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, conservative activist Gary Bauer and former Vice President Dan Quayle.
Tuesday, March 9, 1999
Transcript: Alexander discusses his presidential run
Transcript: Alexander announces 2000 presidential candidacy
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