Was that so hard, Bill?

Bradley finally endorses Gore while Clinton says farewell to the NAACP.

By Anthony York
July 14, 2000 2:00PM (UTC)
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At last, Bill Bradley said it. In a Democratic unity rally in Green Bay, Wis., Thursday, Bill Bradley made his first campaign appearance with Al Gore, and gave his unequivocal endorsement, quoting legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi. "I'm here in Green Bay today because what Vince once said is true, 'Winning is a team sport.' Our party is strongest when we are unified," Bradley said. Today I want to make it clear that I endorse Al Gore for president of the United States."

CNN reported the joint appearance could help Gore shore up his base among traditional Democratic voters. Many of the party's traditional liberal voters supported Bradley, and could turn to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in November.

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Al's got problems with the base
Bradley's endorsement comes as a new poll shows Gore is still having problems shoring up that Democratic base. A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows 56 percent of Republicans said they were strong supporters of Bush, while only 47 percent of Democrats said they strongly supported Gore. Bush's independent backers were also more enthusiastic about him than Gore's. "The greater intensity of Bush's support may portend better things for him regarding voter turnout in the fall than for Gore," Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, told the Associated Press. "It's awfully important to get your core supporters enthused so they get out and vote."

As if only to illustrate this fact, James Hoffa, president of the 1.5 million member Teamsters Union, continued not only to withhold his support from Gore, but to remain coquettish with the loyal opposition. Last month, Hoffa held a joint press conference with Green Party candidate Ralph Nader on the heels of the Green Party convention in Denver. Now, Hoffa is showing his feathers to Republicans.

"Hoffa not only will attend this month's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, he will be honored there at a party thrown by GOP chairman Jim Nicholson, 10 Republicans and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge," according to the AP.

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The Teamsters have proven willing to switch sides before. In the past, the union has endorsed Republicans Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Today in the trenches ...
After picking up the Bradley endorsement, Gore continued needling his Republican rival for the White House, George W. Bush. Gore pointed to a new set of spending needs in Texas on Medicaid and criminal justice programs as proof that Bush is willing to cut taxes at the risk of depleting funding for needed social services.

"If Al Gore suggests a state with a surplus shouldn't cut taxes, how can the American people count on Al Gore to cut taxes when our nation is in surplus?" Bush responded at a Pittsburgh press conference.

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President Clinton also chimed in today, speaking for the last time as president to the NAACP conference. Both Gore and Bush have addressed the conference this week, and Clinton said it was a positive sign that Bush showed his face. "I'm really glad Governor Bush came -- I am," Clinton said. "But I thought the other fellow gave a better speech." Clinton was far more diplomatic than his vice president, who blasted Bush during his speech Wednesday. Clinton instead chose to focus his remarks on plugging Gore.

"We've had a lot of vice presidents, a lot of vice presidents made great presidents -- Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson," Clinton said. "But we've never had a vice president that did so much good as vice president as Al Gore -- never, not ever in the history of the country."

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Reform Party intrigue
Meanwhile, the grudge match between Perot loyalists and Pat Buchanan continues in the Reform Party. Late Wednesday, the party's executive committee cleared the way for an audit of Buchanan's contributor list, which was used to determine who is eligible to vote in the Reform Party primary. Buchanan's opponents are "arguing that the list may taint the party's presidential selection process," according to the AP.

John Hagelin, who is running against Buchanan for the nomination in a mail-in primary currently underway, said he is worried Buchanan's list may be fraudulent. According to Reform Party rules, only registered Reform Party members and people who signed petitions to qualify any Reform Party presidential candidate for the ballot should automatically receive ballots. "The possibility of a contamination by additional names from Buchanan's Republican donor base are concerns to the executive committee, to me and to other members of the Reform Party who want this to be a fair and open primary," Hagelin told the AP Thursday.

Poll positions
Gore 46 to Bush 45 (Newsweek June 29-30).
Bush 52 to Gore 39 (CNN/Gallup/USA Today June 23-25).
Bush 40 to Gore 39 (Associated Press June 21-25).
Bush 49 to Gore 41 (NBC/Wall Street Journal June 14-18).
Bush 52 to Gore 40 (Voter.com June 11-13).
Bush 50 to Gore 40 (Los Angeles Times June 8-13).
Bush 47 to Gore 39 (Zogby June 9-12).
Bush 49 to Gore 45 (ABC News/Washington Post June 8-11).

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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