The morning after the Iowa caucus, in which Lamar! placed a strong third, Alexander supporters were beaming. xxxxxxxxxx xxxThe candidate’s first campaign appearance in New Hampshire after the Iowa opener was supposed to have been one of his trademark walkabouts. At the last minute, however, the walk was canceled because of the frigid temperatures. Still, Lamar’s supporters were unfazed. “The high today is only going to be 8,” a top Alexander campaign official said. “That helps us.”
Presumably a dog barking at the moon, a ship passing close to shore at a certain hour, and three random blasts of a trumpet would have helped him too. The bottom line was that Alexander’s supporters finally had reason to be exultant.
The press has long ignored Alexander, not out of malice, but for good reason: He hasn’t done much to grab the headlines. Now Lamar has exceeded all expectations in Iowa.
What’s more, Alexander seems to have developed a message of late. His message is that he is the most “electable” of the Republicans. While Forbes is Mr. Flat Tax, and Buchanan is battling abortion doctors and free traders, Alexander is able to obfuscate his truly moderate credentials by running a campaign based on an utter nonissue: his electability. Nevertheless, the press loves a horse race, and Alexander is giving them what they want. The story now is not what Alexander would do as president but what he will do in New Hampshire.
Inside the Alexander campaign, optimism is rampant. Of the many game plans tossed about in recent weeks, the most optimistic had Alexander placing in the top three in Iowa and in the top two in New Hampshire. He has held up his end of the bargain so far. Placing second in New Hampshire is not completely out of the question.
But there are problems.
♦ If the race is among Alexander, Buchanan and Dole, two moderates will be battling one conservative. If Alexander and Dole split the moderate vote, will this help Buchanan?
♦ If Forbes remains in the race, what impact will his negative ads have on Alexander, who hasn’t thus far experienced the anger of a rich magazine publisher in the grips of a midlife crisis?
♦ Will Gramm’s support go to Dole? And what does this mean?
♦ Will Dole explode?
♦ Will Honey keep smiling?
If you want up-to-the-minute political notes, get online. I have been tuning into some of these new political Web sites. If you’re on the Internet, go to CNN’s really good page ( http://allpolitics.com/ ), the National Journal and American Political Network’s page ( http://politicsusa.com/ ) or CBS News’ new campaign page ( http://cbsnews.com/campaign96/home/ ), which kicked off the day of the Iowa caucus. If you’re an election junkie, they’ll give you the fix you need.
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