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Bradley '65 intensifies campaign as first primary battles approach

With only weeks to go before the first contests of the primary season, Bill Bradley '65's campaign playbook hinges on two key states more than 1,000 miles apart: Iowa and New Hampshire.

In the all-out scramble that the race for the Democratic presidential nomination has become, both Bradley and Vice President Al Gore have intensified their efforts in anticipation of the Jan. 24 Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary Feb. 1.

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The two have stepped up campaign appearances this week and debated head-to-head from Durham, N.H. Wednesday night in a nationally televised event. They plan to debate again on Saturday.

Crucial primaries

For Bradley more than for the vice president, success in these early contests is viewed as essential to the survival of his White House bid.

"New Hampshire is the be-all and end-all of Bradley's campaign," said Curtis Gans of the Committee on the Study of the American Electorate, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

Winning New Hampshire, Gans explained, would give Bradley "a month of good publicity to carry him into March 7," the pivotal day on which 13 states – including party delegate powerhouses New York and California – hold primaries.

Although Bradley's campaign is riding a wave of optimism into the new year, particularly with recent polls showing him ahead of the vice president in New Hampshire, his national poll ratings still lag well behind Gore's.

Wins in New Hampshire and Iowa will be essential to propel the campaign into the next stage. The publicity of early wins is especially key to challengers, like Bradley and Republican Sen. John McCain, who do not have the institutional strength of their main adversaries.

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Bradley, for instance, "doesn't have the foot soldiers from the labor unions" that will prove essential in key industrial states, Wilson School professor Fred Greenstein said.

Free publicity

Success in New Hampshire and Iowa enabled Jimmy Carter, previously a relative unknown, to win his party nomination and subsequently the presidency in 1976, Greenstein explained. The national publicity Carter received was the equivalent of millions of dollars worth of advertising, he added.

After New Hampshire, the candidates will be bombarded with national attention as they prepare for the early March primaries. At this point, television advertisements will become the campaigns' primary tool, and face-to-face contact will be much more rare.

"There won't be time for hanging around in diners," quipped Larry Bartels, a Wilson School professor and scholar of presidential primaries.

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February's rush is driven by the fact that the nomination could be determined by mid-March if either candidate fails to perform well in either California or New York.

Gans cited California as the second main hurdle for Bradley's campaign, after New Hampshire. "I believe California is critical to sustain his drive beyond March 7," he said.

Some Democrats disagree, believing New York to be a more important symbolic win for Bradley because of his years as a New York Knick.

If Bradley manages to survive through the March primaries, however, Gans said he will give Gore a strong challenge for the party nod. "He will have at least as good a chance of winning the nomination as Gore does."

Bradley will be helped in the long term by his recent fund-raising success. He now has approximately the same amount to spend as Gore, so money will not likely be the deciding factor in enabling the longevity of his campaign.

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