Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

Path to the presidency proves to be a dead end for Bradley '65, Forbes '70

The year started out well for Democratic presidential candidate Bill Bradley '65. His only opponent, Vice President Al Gore, was suffering from a disorganized campaign and poor press relations.

Bradley's war chest had grown quickly since he announced his candidacy in September, and he enjoyed the luxury of being able to spend money more rapidly than Gore.


The former Princeton basketball forward was a media darling and, in the middle of January, it appeared that the New Hampshire primary was his to win.

But it was not meant to be.

Despite his momentum and optimism heading into the early primaries, Bradley was unable to convert his fund-raising success and positive media attention into votes.

He fell short in the New Hampshire primary Feb. 1 and continued to lag behind Gore as the month went on. At the same time, Arizona Sen. John McCain's insurgent Republican campaign began to dominate the headlines, and McCain replaced Bradley as the popular underdog.

After a disappointing showing in the March 7 Super Tuesday primary — in which Gore won all 16 Democratic contests, including New York, California and Bradley's native Missouri — the former New York Knicks star and current University trustee decided to throw in the towel.

"It is the tradition of the Democratic Party to fight hard during the primaries and then unify and close ranks behind the nominee," Bradley said in his March 9 press conference in West Orange, N.J., when he announced his withdrawal from the race. "And now it is time for unity."


University professor Fred Greenstein, who studies presidential politics, said in March that Bradley "didn't give a sense of fire and animation, that he was coming in to do something important, something you could identify with."

"He was too cerebral, too flat," Greenstein said, adding that Bradley faced a tough challenge from the beginning because he was running against an incumbent in a time of economic prosperity.

For his part, Bradley said he thought his campaign had changed the dynamic of the 2000 election, and for that he was glad. "We've shaped the national debate," he told supporters on Super Tuesday after conceding defeat to Gore. "We brought core Democratic issues to the floor."

Ernestine Bradley, who substituted for her husband frequently on the campaign trail, said, "We have brought in new people, people who have been out of the political process."

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »

The candidate agreed. "I believe that history will write that we helped change politics," Bradley said.

Forbes, take two

Bradley was not the only Princetonian running for the White House this election year. Steve Forbes '70, who lost the Republican nomination to former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole in 1996, returned to the national stage to take another shot at the White House.

Forbes spent millions of dollars of his own money on his campaign and had a strong showing at the Iowa caucus in January, but was unable to parlay his momentum into success in New Hampshire, where he placed a distant third.

The millionaire publisher had hoped to make a comeback in Delaware — one of two states he won in 1996 — during its Feb. 8 primary, but finished far behind Texas Gov. George W. Bush and behind McCain, who did not even campaign in Delaware.

University politics professor Larry Bartels said it was no surprise when Forbes left the campaign in the second week of February following his loss in Delaware. "It seemed pretty clear that if he didn't do well in Delaware, he wouldn't do well in other states, especially with McCain on the ballot," Bartels said.

Forbes spent more than $65 million on his two unsuccessful presidential bids and could have continued in the race this year even with George W. Bush's record setting fund raising.

In 1996, however, Forbes was criticized for damaging Dole by staying in the primary race well into the spring. This year Forbes chose to leave the race when it became clear he could not win.