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Now It's a Three-Way Race

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 6) -- One day after Sen. Robert Dole's Junior Tuesday sweep, two of his rivals in the race for the GOP nomination called it quits Wednesday.


In back-to-back news conferences here and in Nashville, Sen Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander each ended their struggling presidential bids and endorsed Dole.

While neither Alexander nor Lugar captured many voters' imaginations in the early primaries, their support helps Dole build the case that he is the choice of the Republican mainstream, and the inevitable nominee.

Their departure makes it a three-way race between Dole, one of the Republican party's senior legislative tacticians, and two outsiders who have never been elected to public office before: commentator Pat Buchanan and magazine publisher Malcolm S. "Steve" Forbes Jr.,

Alexander said his primary bid had posed a question to voters: "Is Senator Dole the man that Republicans want carrying our banner against Bill Clinton and leading us into the new century?

[Quote from Alexander]

"And what I have discovered is that, for most Republicans, the answer to that is `yes,"' Alexander said. (330K AIFF or WAV sound) "I have listened to the voters and accepted their decision."

Alexander called Dole "a man of character...a man of integrity" and added: "I am proud to call him my friend and I will be prouder of him as the president of the United States."

Until Tuesday, Alexander planned to remain in the race at least until Super Tuesday on March 12, when he hoped to win Florida and restart his flagging campaign. But Junior Tuesday stripped away any illusions. In eight primaries, including Georgia, which Alexander had said was crucial, the Tennessean had finished no better than third, winning no delegates.

Despite his moderate tone, Alexander pushed some of the campaign season's most radical proposals for transferring power away from Washington to state governments. To foster a legislature more in touch with the citizenry, he advocated cutting congressional pay sharply and decreasing the amount of time lawmakers spend in Washington.

"We take pride in the fact people have taken some of our positions and (are) using the bully pulpit to push them along," Alexander spokesman Mark Merritt said.

Despite a higher profile after strong third place showings in Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary, Alexander failed to convince voters he was better suited than Dole to wage a battle of ideas against Buchanan in the GOP primary race or against President Bill Clinton next fall.

Alexander said he didn't expect to be asked to join the Republican ticket as vice-president candidate. If asked, he said he would offer Dole the names of five people who would be better suited. "I wouldn't be a very good second fiddle," he said.

Lugar, 63, made his decision to quit Tuesday night after watching Dole take Vermont, where Lugar had campaigned heavily.

Lugar said following a "remarkable" day of voting he realized he would not be the Republican Party nominee, and he urged his friends to vote for Dole, as he would do. He said he had a great deal of admiration for Dole and "I look forward to his presidency." (231K AIFF or WAV sound)

Despite wide-ranging experience in urban affairs and foreign policy, Lugar left almost no footprints on the campaign. His proposed national sales tax and his political experience counted for little among Vermont primary voters, where he had hoped a win might give him a boost.

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