Bill Bradley Makes It Official

The presidential campaign kicked into higher gear on Wednesday. Fifty-six-year-old Bill Bradley went to his hometown in Missouri to officially declare he's running for the Democratic presidential nomination. And as CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones reports, Bradley did so amid indications he could give Democratic front-runner Al Gore a run for his money and the nomination:

"I wouldn't have gotten into this if I couldn't see my way through 270, which is the number of Electoral votes you need to win. I think I can win the election," Bradley tells CBS News. "I'm up against establishment power. I'm up against all of the power that can be brought to bear by that establishment. But I have faith in people."

Bradley's official presidential announcement couldn't have come at a better time. A recent poll in the crucial state of New Hampshire showed Bradley in a dead heat with Vice President Al Gore.

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On Wednesday, Bradley never mentioned the Clinton-Gore White House, but those listening seemed to understand about whom he was talking.

"I'm more interested in leadership than polls and politics. And I believe we need a new kind of leadership," he said. "Leadership that put the people front and center, not the president."

Traditional Democratic sympathies for the poor and disadvantaged lie at the heart of Bill Bradley's campaign as he tries to articulate for Democrats a compelling reason to choose him over Vice President Al Gore.

Up until how, Bradley has practically been ignored by the Gore campaign. But to get the Democratic presidential nomination, the Vice President may have to fight off Bradley, who now has the money and the determination to stick around to the end.

"I've never done anything in my life that I did not want to win. This is no exeption," says Bradley. "So, how much do I want it? I want it a lot. But not for meÂ…but because through me, maybe we can do some things in the country that we couldn't otherwise do. That's the only reason to do this."

The former New Jersey senator has also promised to make race relations a major issue, based on what he had learned as Little Leaguer back in Missouri.

"I remember our team walking out of restaurants in the boot heel of Missouri because they wouldn't serve our black catcher. Racism disturbed me then, and still angers me now," Bradley said.

The former professional basketball star talked about America's soaring economy that he said has still left many behind on issues like health care.

"While kings and dictators come to this country for the best health care treatment in the world, you and I both know that this care is not available for the 45 million citizens who have no health insurance at all," the candidate said.

AP
An expression of support on a Crystal City street


So far, Bradley is playing the presidential game on his terms and with success. He's raised about $12 million without taking big corporate donations. Gore has raised about $20 million, but he has spent a lot more.

Bradley didn't have to provide details on major controversial issues on Wednesday. He won't get specific until later this fall. Bradley knows that knocking off Al Gore, who enjoys all the advantages of incumbency, remains an uphill battle.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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