Bradley prepares to make a stand in Washington

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 February, 2000, 12:00am


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The 'loser' tag can be a tough thing to shake in the congested presidential primary race.

For Democrat underdog Bill Bradley, the wolves are starting to gather.

The former senator has struggled for attention since failing to beat Vice-President Al Gore in New Hampshire a fortnight ago and speculation is mounting he will be forced from the race soon to give Mr Gore a fighting chance in the election itself.

While Mr Bradley came close to beating Mr Gore with a liberal platform of health care and poverty eradication, the Vice-President has back-room influence among the Democrats.

Furthermore, all the attention lavished on the Republican battle, given the John McCain 'phenomenon', seemed to detract from Mr Bradley's efforts.

The Democrats work to a slightly different primary calendar and do not compete in South Carolina until mid-March.

For them, the 16-state primary of 'Super Tuesday' - March 7 - is far more important.

Mr Bradley - who has a strong personal dislike of Mr Gore - has long vowed to keep fighting until the Democratic Party convention in June.

At the weekend, for the first time, reports surfaced that he might be pushed into retiring unless he comes out ahead on 'Super Tuesday'.

Media reports said the struggle to keep his campaign alive seemed to hinge increasingly on Washington state, which holds a non-binding vote on February 29 that will be the only Democratic contest before 'Super Tuesday'.

'What happens there if he beats Gore is that it will resonate across the country that this is a race,' Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, who is helping Mr Bradley in Washington state, told the New York Times.

'This is where he's going to make a stand. I think he's decided that.'