Back less than a week from his six-month sabbatical in Australia, former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander (R) has been besieged by questions about his political future. Is he interested in the vice presidency? "No one has asked me" to be his running mate, Alexander said. "If I ever get asked . . . I'll consider it." Alexander added that the vice presidency is not something for which to campaign.

Alexander, who supported fellow Tennessean Howard H. Baker Jr. until Baker dropped out of the presidential race to become White House chief of staff, said that, in his first week back, he heard from nearly all of the GOP contenders. But he added that he is "not in any rush" to support someone.

Will he challenge Sen. Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.) next year? Far from ruling out the prospect, Alexander coyly said, "I don't have to decide that this year, so I'm not going to make that decision now."

Polling has shown the two within a percentage point of each other.

Meanwhile, Alexander has set a Jan. 1 deadline to complete a book about his experiences in Australia and has joined former Virginia governor Charles S. Robb (D) in an effort to promote interest in the southern regional primaries March 8.