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Bradley gains on Gore but has a long way to go

September 21, 1999
Web posted at: 10:34 a.m. EDT (1434 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Recent polls show Democratic presidential challenger Bill Bradley in a statistical dead heat with Vice President Al Gore in the New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, but a look at the primary calendar shows how much ground he has to make up elsewhere to win the nomination.

In July, Gore was leading Bradley in New Hampshire by 16 points but Bradley has gained ground in the Granite State, which sometimes likes upstart challengers in presidential politics. But outside of the Northeast, the news is not as good.

The 2000 Democratic contest kicks off in Iowa, with the caucuses expected to be held January 31. Gore is ahead there by 40 points in the latest state poll and has the support of Iowa's top Democrats. The New Hampshire primary is scheduled to follow a week later.

March 7 is the first major multistate primary. Fifteen states hold contests on this day, including most of the Northeast and electoral vote-rich California, where 20 percent of the election convention delegates will come from.

Bradley is currently tied with Gore in New York polls after closing a 28-point gap. Bradley has high name recognition in the Empire State as an ex-senator from neighboring New Jersey and from his 10 seasons in the NBA with the New York Knicks.

Besides New York, Massachusetts is also a dead heat between the two men. Of the Northeastern states, Gore is clearly ahead only in Connecticut.

But head west and it's apparent why Bradley is still a long-shot despite recent gains. In powerhouse California, Gore leads Bradley by 20 points or more in state polls.

On March 10, Colorado and Utah will hold presidential primaries. A recent state poll in Utah shows Gore ahead there by 32 points. A day later, Michigan and Arizona hold contests. In Michigan, Gore is up by 25 points.

Then comes March 14, the Super Tuesday primary of Southern states and more evidence of just how much ground Bradley needs to make up in the next six months. In Texas, Gore is ahead by 44 points.

There is no recent polling data from the other Super Tuesday states, but Gore has some significant advantages in the South. Just as Bradley does well among more affluent northern Democrats, Gore has a clear edge among blue-collar voters, as well as African-Americans, two key Democratic voting blocks in the South.

In the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, a regional breakdown shows that Gore would beat Bradley in the Super Tuesday states by 52 points.

In general, the earlier the primary contest, the better Bradley does, at least according to current polls. He starts strong, but his support begins to weaken by March 7 and then erodes even further on March 14.

The Bradley campaign says that current polls are meaningless, and that his support will naturally pick up once more people get to know him. Should Bradley do well or win in New Hampshire, he would also benefit from increased media attention that follows a strong showing there.

But the Bradley camp also is trying to lower expectations because they don't want their candidate to look like he's the front-runner. They're hoping they can just survive Iowa, do well enough in New Hampshire that it gives him a boost in the important New York primary on March 7.

CNN's Chris Black and Judy Woodruff contributed to this report.


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Tuesday, September 21, 1999

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