No surprises: Al Gore, stiff as a board, stood before a jubilant crowd after officially extinguishing any foolish thought Bill Bradley might have entertained that he could win the Democratic nomination.
"They don't call it Super Tuesday for nothing," said Gore, who won all 11 Democratic primaries contested. "My heart is full tonight."
But for a man who had just lost in every state on Super Tuesday, Bradley seemed defiantly jubilant as he appeared before supporters in New York to
concede defeat to Gore. Bradley shed the weary look that has haunted him at campaign events since his defeat in New Hampshire over a month ago; now he looked relieved. With great sportsmanship, he offered his only remarks on Gore for the evening: "He won. I lost."
He did not, as some expected, announce that he was withdrawing from the race. Instead, he said he would consult with his supporters before announcing any plans. Campaign spokesman Eric Hauser told reporters earlier Tuesday evening that an announcement regarding the future of the campaign would not be made until Thursday.
Journalists and Beltway insiders placed Bradley's candidacy under a death watch after his loss last Tuesday in Washington, where he had placed most of his resources in the hope of a symbolic victory. Press attention to Bradley has atrophied so badly that the candidate had to take out a $1 million ad on prime-time television last week. And leading up to Super Tuesday, Bradley trailed massively behind Gore in the polls. Tuesday he lost, but not without a party.
The ballroom at the Sheraton Tower Tuesday night was packed with more than 1,000 supporters -- a mix of younger and older Democrats -- and several Secret Service agents. Despite the fact that their man has failed to win a single primary, the audience's spirits seemed buoyant. They were all smiles and no tears, sipping wine and snacking on hors d'oeuvres. Notably absent were the celebrity athletes who packed Madison Square Garden for a fund-raiser during one of Bradley's peak moments last November.
But Bradley's political supporters, who he said "stood up for me when it wasn't easy," joined him onstage in a school choir formation. Among those flanking the former New Jersey senator and New York Knick were Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., former New York Mayor Ed Koch (introduced as "Spike Lee's friend"), Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., and Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn.
In his short speech, Bradley launched no attacks on his Democratic rival and focused on the accomplishments of his campaign, sometimes in past tense, describing it as the "beginning of a new politics in our country."
"I've talked about the essential goodness of people," Bradley said. "And that is idealism, a belief that good can triumph over bad, that principle can defeat expediency."
"In this campaign, we don't check where the winds are blowing and follow it to gain the people's quick approval. We began with conviction, talked with people, listened to their stories and then proposed what we think will make a difference in their lives. Despite our lack of victory tonight, there's so much that every one of you who became a
part of our campaign has to be proud of," he said, raising his voice for one of the few times in the speech.
"Some have called our goals unrealistic. I call them common sense," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind that tonight we're a step closer to a politics that once again is seen as noble service."