Alexander, Lugar withdraw from GOP presidential race Both throw their support behind front-runner Dole

March 07, 1996|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Lamar Alexander and Richard G. Lugar, two solid, respected, plain Jane politicians whose bids for the Republican presidential nomination never caught fire, gave up yesterday, saying they had no hope of defeating the front-runner, Bob Dole.

Mr. Alexander, a 55-year-old former Tennessee governor who experimented with all kinds of gimmicks to attract attention -- from flannel shirts to piano recitals to exclamation points (Lamar!) -- acknowledged defeat at a news conference in Nashville and promptly endorsed Mr. Dole.

He said he had spent months traveling the country asking: "Is Senator Dole the man that Republicans want carrying our banner against Bill Clinton and leading us into the next century?"

"And what I've discovered," he quipped, "is that for most Republicans, the answer is yes."

Even in the South, Mr. Alexander barely scored as high as third place against Mr. Dole, Patrick J. Buchanan and Steve Forbes.

Mr. Lugar, a 63-year-old, four-term senator who emphasized his expertise in foreign policy, fared even less well. He failed to win a single convention delegate and was about to lose his claim to public campaign matching funds.

"All along, I said as long as I had momentum and money I would probably stay [in the race]," Mr. Lugar said at a news conference here. "I think the momentum is suspect, and the money is gone."

Mr. Lugar, too, threw his support to Mr. Dole, whom he called "the apparent nominee" after Mr. Dole's commanding sweep of eight primary contests Tuesday and before Mr. Dole's expected victory in the New York primary today.

Each man had tried to position himself as an alternative to the Senate majority leader. Mr. Alexander, in particular, had tried to portray himself as a younger, fresher face than the 72-year-old Mr. Dole, as someone more in touch with Americans outside the Washington establishment and better able to defeat President Clinton.

For Mr. Lugar, the approach had been a substantive policy pitch, featuring ideas such as scrapping the federal income tax and replacing it with a national sales tax.

But Mr. Lugar and Mr. Alexander were left behind by candidates who lacked their government credentials but had greater pizazz.

Mr. Forbes zoomed from obscurity by spending millions of his own dollars to promote his "flat tax." Mr. Buchanan marshaled conservative activists with a sharp message on the issues of abortion, trade and immigration.

Pub Date: 3/07/96

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