As a gubernatorial candidate in 1978, Lamar Alexander walked across the state of Tennessee seeking votes. He is now traversing New Hampshire--the state with the first primary--in increments as part of his effort to capture the Republican presidential nomination.
So it was not surprising to see the former governor and Secretary of Education striding along the Des Moines River on the morning of Iowa's Aug. 19 GOP straw poll.
But a reporter running on the same trail noticed that he seemed to be talking to trees and gesturing with his hands.
"I'm practicing my speech for tonight," Mr. Alexander explained. "It's the perfect audience. No audience."
His practice apparently paid off in at least one sense: He was the only candidate to recite his speech from memory.
But that was not enough to steal the thunder from Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, who surprised pundits by scoring a tie with the front-runner, Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.
Each senator received 2,582 of the 10,598 votes cast. Mr. Alexander said he was pleased with a 1,156-vote, fourth-place finish, behind commentator Pat Buchanan, who got 1,922 votes.
Rounding out the field were radio talk-show host Alan Keyes, with 804 votes; businessman Maurice Taylor, 803; Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, 466; Gov. Pete Wilson of California, 129; Rep. Robert K. Dornan of California, 87; and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, 67.
Back to School
The Department of Education is heralding the new school year with a series of events, collectively dubbed "America Goes Back to School: A Place for Families and the Community," that are intended to stir grass-roots support for education.
On Sept. 7, Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley is scheduled to speak at the National Press Club. Two days later, he will appear at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center with 4,000 teachers and other educators. On Sept. 11, he is to visit schools in his native state of South Carolina, where he once served as governor.
President Clinton has back-to-school events on his agenda also.
Among the other activities scheduled, Cabinet members will visit schools; AmeriCorps volunteers will read to schoolchildren; and Shari Lewis and her puppet, Lamb Chop, will introduce a new Education Department video, "Goals 2000: A New Standard of Learning," in New York City.
--Robert C. Johnston & Mark Pitsch