Alexander: Most Americans Have Not Finally Made Their Minds Up, Election Will Move from “Reality Show” to “Who Is Going to Deal with Putin … Make a Sensible Decision about ISIS?”

On C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” says at this time 20 years ago he was at 1% in national polls but pulled into the lead in New Hampshire a few weeks later; discusses new bipartisan law replacing No Child Left Behind

Posted on December 20, 2015

NASHVILLE, Dec. 20—U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said this morning on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" Sunday show that most voters in New Hampshire and Iowa “have not yet finally made their minds up.” Alexander reminded viewers that his own experience twenty years ago showed that early presidential primaries can quickly reshape poll figures.

Alexander told the show’s cohosts, reporters Niels Lesniewski of Roll Call and Alyson Klein of Education Week, that he was at 1 percent in national polls eight weeks before the New   Hampshire 1996 primary – but after a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses was leading in Sen. Bob Dole's New Hampshire polls the weekend before that state's primary.

 “They hadn't [finally decided yet at this time] 20 years ago … And I think [voters are] going to go from looking at a reality show — which is what this has been this year — to saying, ‘Who is going to deal with Putin? Who is going to help me get a better job? Who really can make a sensible decision about ISIS and the fear we have from attacks we have had in our own country?’” 

Alexander, who is chairman of the Senate’s education committee, also said passage of legislation to fix the No Child Left Behind law was made possible by strong bipartisan cooperation. He praised his colleague, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who helped him draft the bill as the Democratic leader on the committee. 

He said Murray knows what all senators should know: “If all you want to do is make a speech, or announce your position, you can go get your own radio show and do that. But if you want to come to the Senate, you should try to get a result,” he said.

Alexander dismissed ideas that progress in Congress would be diminished by the 2016 presidential election.

“As far as the presidential year stuff, you know, they still pay our salaries next year, so I don’t know of any reason we should take the year off,” he said.

To that end, Alexander gave two key initiatives he plans to work on  on his committee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) during  2016: 

  • Innovation legislation – a bill Alexander said was designed to “get treatments through the FDA … faster, cheaper and into medicine cabinets.” This bill could work with the House’s 21st Century Cures bill and President Obama’s precision medicine initiative.
  • Higher education – highlighting differences between the current Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application form and his own postcard-sized form, Alexander said Congress “need[s] to simplify the jungle of red tape that governs our [institutions of higher] education, and we need to make it easier and simpler for students to go to college.” 

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