You Won’t Have Lamar To Kick Around Anymore

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Lamar Alexander was too much like George W. to be a real alternative. And so, after trudging an uphill campaign trail practically nonstop for six years, the former Tennessee governor bowed his head Monday and dropped out of the GOP 2000 presidential campaign. "My heart wants to keep going, but there is no realistic way to do it," Alexander said in a prepared statement to supporters gathered at the state capitol in Nashville. During the 1996 primaries, Bill Clinton had called Alexander the opponent he most feared. Four years later, after pouring the last of his meager campaign funds into an all-out run at the Iowa straw poll — and coming in a dismal sixth — the flannel-wearing, exclamatory walk-across-the-state Alexander was out of donors and options. This year, he can blame it on fellow GOP moderate George W. Bush and his fund-raising Hoover, but TIME senior writer Eric Pooley says that the gods of politics simply never smiled upon this worthy man.

"There’s a poignancy to it, the fact that he’s spent six years on this quest, never held another job in all that time," he says. "And there’s also something self-delusional about it. You have some scenario in mind in which you’re about to catch fire, if only this would happen, if only that would happen. But sometimes, it never does. The voters rejected him last time, they rejected him this time. So it shouldn’t surprise us too much." It’s a sign of this year’s supercharged cycle that even a campaign as long-established as Alexander's ran out of money six months before New Hampshire. Pooley says it’s just as well it happened now. "He’s not an untalented man. He has a lot to offer in public service if he can find another way he wants to contribute," he says. "This way he got out with some grace and dignity." And two places ahead of Dan Quayle.