Lamar Alexander's tone was urgent as he ordered some quick research.
"I need to know the price of a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs -- now," the GOP presidential hopeful and former governor of Tennessee told an aide. "I need to know right now."
Moments earlier, Alexander, who likes to tell audiences his rivals are wedded to Washington while he comes from the "real world," had ended a news conference by ignoring a reporter's question about the price of milk and eggs.
It was the same question that had tripped up Rep. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., last year during his successful campaign for a Senate seat. When Wyden refused to answer the query, his opponent claimed the congressman was out of touch.
Alexander's rivals were quick to do likewise.
"Alexander Fails the Grocery Test," announced a news release from Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole's campaign.
"Lamar may be an outsider when it comes to grocery stores, but he's an insider when it comes to politics," said Scott Reed, campaign manager for Dole, R-Kan. "Next time he's walking across New Hampshire, he might want to stop at a supermarket."
Memo to the candidates: Labor Department statistics list a gallon of milk at $2.27 and grade A large eggs at $1.04 a dozen.