- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2000

Al Gore has failed to win an all-out endorsement from Bill Bradley, who has not stumped or raised funds for the vice president or even met with him since grudgingly agreeing to help the Democratic victor two months ago.
The former New Jersey senator has refused to relinquish his nearly 500 delegates and has refrained from urging the 3 million Americans who cast votes for him to switch their allegiance to Mr. Gore. There has been no public purging of the bad blood he has harbored toward the vice president, whom he characterized throughout the primaries as a lying, craven political opportunist who cannot be trusted with the presidency.
The press has remained virtually silent on the lingering bitterness between Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley, although it has made a major political story out of the ill will between John McCain and George W. Bush. Now that the Arizona senator has "enthusiastically" endorsed the Texas governor, Mr. Gore becomes the only presidential candidate who has been unable to enlist the full-throated support of his stronger-than-expected primary challenger.
Bradley spokesman Eric Hauser said millions of Americans still have an affinity for the former NBA star who threw a scare into Mr. Gore in New Hampshire.
"We surprised Gore and the Democratic establishment, and showed that we could raise a lot of money and have a great influence with a lot of disparate kinds of voters," Mr. Hauser said. "Bradley emerges from that stronger than when he went in."
Mr. McCain's chief media strategist, Mike Murphy, agreed.
"Bradley still has enough national stature to create huge and horrific problems for Gore," Mr. Murphy told The Washington Times. "Bradley's important and is being ignored by Gore. And if Bradley wanted to, he could make a lot of trouble.
"I'm shocked that there's not been more attention paid to Gore's snubbing of Bradley," he added. "Gore murdered Bradley, with bloody fingerprints, yet there's no penalty. Meanwhile, we all watch the nuances of McCain-Bush. It's ridiculous."
Said Gore spokesman Doug Hattaway: "When Senator Bradley dropped out of the race, he made it clear he was supporting Al Gore. The campaigns have been holding discussions about the future."
Yet there has been no agreement on Mr. Bradley's role at the Democratic National Convention this summer or what it will take for him to release his delegates to the vice president. Although he dropped out of the race, Mr. Bradley's name continues to appear on state primary ballots and he continues to amass both delegates and popular votes.
"We've been in contact with the Gore camp on routine things, but there haven't been any decisions about delegates or the convention or anything like that," Mr. Hauser said. "I suspect it will be sooner rather than later that we come back out and consistent with what we said the day we dropped out support Gore and work on his behalf."
Asked whether Mr. Bradley is planning to meet with Mr. Gore, Mr. Hauser said: "It's hard to say. You know, we're going to figure out what we're going do with him, for him, and then the pieces will fall into place."
Mr. Bradley, who dropped out of the race on March 9, the same day Mr. McCain suspended his campaign, refused to use the word "endorse" during a news conference in which he tepidly threw his support behind Mr. Gore that day.
"Senator, you did not use the word 'endorse' when talking about Al Gore," a reporter pointed out at the news conference. Are you today endorsing him?"
"I am giving him my support for the nomination," Mr. Bradley allowed. "I will work for him. And that is what I'm saying."
A reporter persisted: "Is there a difference in your mind between support and "
"It is your call," replied Mr. Bradley, growing irritated. "I'm supporting him."
When Mr. Bradley was asked "What's your call?" he still refused to use the word "endorsement."
"I'm not parsing words today," he said. "I'm saying very clearly: I have called him; I said I would support him; I intend to support him."
Yesterday, Mr. McCain was asked a similar question.
"Senator, why do you have difficulty using the word 'endorsement' when you talk about your support for Governor Bush?" a reporter said.
"I endorse Governor Bush," Mr. McCain said before the reporter could go on. "I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush. I endorse Governor Bush."
Mr. McCain laughed good-naturedly during this exchange, as did Mr. Bush, who added: "By the way, I enthusiastically accept."
Yet this affectionate banter did not impress the journalists, many of whom said the men looked "uncomfortable" and read ominous signals in Mr. McCain's "tone" and "body language."
The body language of Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley during joint appearances like their debate on NBC's "Meet the Press" betrayed an almost visceral hostility between the two Democrats. Even when Mr. Bradley quit the race, he continued to complain about the vice president's "distortions and negativity."
"While I'm bowing out, I'm not releasing the delegates that are on my side," Mr. Bradley said at the time. "They've been loyal supporters and deserve to have their voices heard."
A Bush spokesman declined to comment on the lack of rapprochement on the Democratic side, preferring instead to emphasize that the Texas governor and Mr. McCain have united to defeat Mr. Gore.
A Democratic National Committee official downplayed the lack of press coverage of the Gore-Bradley relationship in recent months, pointing out that Mr. McCain has kept himself in the limelight by staging a high-profile visit to Vietnam and holding meetings with Mr. Gore and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Mr. Bradley, by contrast, has "laid low" since dropping out, Mr. Hauser said. He took a vacation and then began considering what to do, not only about Mr. Gore but also his own career.
"Unlike John McCain," Mr. Hauser said. "He doesn't have a job right now."

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