- The Washington Times - Friday, February 11, 2000

Michael Jordan is trying to put some air back into Bill Bradley's sagging presidential campaign.

The retired basketball superstar and pitchman extraordinaire has made a TV ad for Mr. Bradley that will run in several states before the March 7 national primary. Mr. Jordan, looking directly at the camera, endorses Mr. Bradley, citing his support of universal health care and gun control.

Analysts say Mr. Jordan's stardom likely will bring the former Knicks forward a flourish of attention. But it remains to be seen whether the ad will move voters to "be like Mike" in the Democratic primaries.

"In the past, those kinds of things have never really translated into votes," said Ron Faucheux, editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine.

Mr. Jordan "is in a class by himself," but "if it was almost anybody else," the result would be minimal, he said.

But Republican pollster Frank Luntz observed that Mr. Jordan is not your usual TV huckster.

"When a cultural icon endorses you, it takes you to a different level," Mr. Luntz said. "He is a truly loved national figure."

Marketing Evaluations/TV Q, a New York company, ranks Mr. Jordan among the top 10 celebrities in the nation for being likable and for name recognition. Mr. Jordan regularly tops the list among athletes.

Mr. Bradley has started poorly, losing the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. But he is closer to contention than Mr. Jordan's other reclamation project the NBA's Washington Wizards.

"I am very honored to receive Michael's support for my campaign, particularly since he has not publicly endorsed a political candidate before today," Mr. Bradley said in a statement.

"I have worked hard to bring new people into the political process and to bring people together around a shared vision for the country."

Vice President Al Gore's campaign previously announced that Mr. Jordan's mother, Deloris, supports the vice president.

The Gore campaign professed no fear.

"We've got Shaquille O'Neal. He's bigger," said spokesman Chris Lehane, referring to the Los Angeles Lakers center.

Mr. Bradley has made racial unity a key issue in his campaign, but he has failed to attract black voters. Nationally, Mr. Gore led Mr. Bradley 63 percent to 20 percent among blacks, according to a Gallup poll published last month.

David Bositis, who studies black voting patterns at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said he doubts the Jordan endorsement will make a big difference to black voters.

"No black women are going to vote for a candidate because of an endorsement by Michael Jordan," he said.

Mr. Jordan has not been active in politics or in race relations, Mr. Bositis said. Another problem for Mr. Bradley is that 60 percent of blacks live in the South.

"I don't think you're going to find all that many Chicago Bulls fans in the South," Mr. Bositis said. However, Mr. Jordan is from North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina.

But Mr. Luntz said Mr. Jordan may prompt black voters to reconsider Mr. Bradley.

"It will take time," Mr. Luntz said. But "when Jordan speaks, people listen. Bradley will get a second look."

Mr. Bradley's supporters include an all-star team of basketball greats, such as Julius Erving, John Havlicek, Bill Russell and former teammates such as Walt Frazier, Earl "the Pearl" Monroe and Willis Reed.

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