Don't look now, but the 1996 Presidential campaign is well under way. And while Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) is hogging the headlines as the GOP front-runner, former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander is emerging from the shadows as a top-tier contender. George Bush's Education Secretary is doing it the old-fashioned way: with shoe leather and grassroots organization.

Alexander's hustle paid off on June 24, when he finished a surprising second to Dole in a straw poll at Iowa's GOP convention. That embarrassed big-name rivals: former Housing & Urban Development Secretary Jack Kemp, ex-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, and former Vice-President Dan Quayle.

Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses are crucial for would-be Presidents. Alexander--with growing support among Bush moderates and Kemp conservatives--is on the path another Southern ex-governor took through Iowa to the Presidency: Jimmy Carter. Alexander hopes to parlay a good Iowa showing into primary victories in New Hampshire and beyond. But that may not be enough to win in '96, because the calendar is front-loaded with big-state primaries. Can Alexander raise the bucks and boost his name recognition to vie with the party stars?

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