Republican senator gives Trump 'big stick' to carry as election nears

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[August 05, 2020]    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who ran unsuccessfully for the White House in 1996 and 2000, handed Donald Trump a 5-foot walking cane after a White House event on Tuesday, saying the Republican president might just need a "big stick" this fall.

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) gives U.S. President Donald Trump his old Tennessee hiking stick as they appear with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and others at a signing ceremony for the Great American Outdoors Act, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Alexander, a former Tennessee governor, presented Trump with the decades-old "mountain man stick" after the president signed into law a major bipartisan conservation bill.

Sporting his trademark flannel pattern on a face mask, Alexander told Reuters he was given the stick made by a craftsman in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when he walked across his home state during a gubernatorial race in 1978.

"I thought it would be appropriate for the president," Alexander said, lauding Trump's willingness to fund needed maintenance of national parks using oil and gas royalties.

But he added with a laugh, "He might need to use it this fall. It's a big stick and it fits his size."

Conservationist Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, who Trump mentioned during the signing, famously once said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

Trump is trailing the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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