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Bradley Picks Up Reich Nod

Debuting a New Hampshire necktie with outlines of the state as he formally registered his candidacy, Bill Bradley Monday welcomed Robert Reich to his camp, calling the defecting Clinton-Gore administration official "a man who thinks for himself."

Appearing with Bradley at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, Reich said the administration got the national economy back on track but that it left the hard choices on health care and poverty unfinished.

"It was not easy for me to decide to come up here and publicly support Bill Bradley. It wasn't easy because I have worked very closely with Vice President Al Gore...and I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Al Gore," Reich, former labor secretary in the Clinton-Gore administration, told an assembly of mostly college students.

"I have absolutely no doubt that were he [Gore] elected, he would make an excellent president, but given the challenges ahead, Bill Bradley's commitment, his dedication, and his vision make him to my mind an even better president," he said.

Asked by reporters what meaning he took from Reich's decision to side with him over Gore, Bradley said, "I think that shows that he's a man who thinks for himself, and I think that it shows that he's a man who believes I'd be the best president for this country in the next four years. That's what I believe and I'm glad we agree."

The tightly guarded news - Bradley campaign officials kept Reich's backing a secret for days - follows Bradley's splashy rollout of support from pro basketball legends and other celebrities in New York's Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Reich headed the Labor Department during Mr. Clinton's first term and was considered a liberal voice in an administration that courted centrist voters. An old friend of the president, Reich has been critical of him since leaving the administration.

As his farewell in 1997, Reich delivered a speech titled "The Unfinished Agenda" in which he asserted the administration's next economic task should be to help bridge the growing gap between the rich and poor - a theme that echoes loudly in Bradley's campaign.

The Gore campaign had a tart reaction.

"I hope this means Mr. Reich will educate Senator Bradley's team on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security - all programs that Bradley's agenda threatens to dismantle, imperil or change," said Gore spokesman Chris Lehane.

Asked if the president, visiting Turkey, was informed of Reich's endorsement of Bradley over Gore, CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports spokesman Joe Lockhart was decidedly coy, saying "it's been a busy day and that was not high on our list of briefing items."

Before joining Reich at Saint Anselm, Bradley stopped off at the State Capitol to turn in the one-page filing form and $1,000 fee that will place his name on the ballot for New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary on Feb. 1. Bradley also was expected to ar his first round of television ads this week.

Buoyant from the publicity surrounding his Madison Square Garden event Sunday, Bradley said Monday: "By the time we get to Feb. 1, people will know who I am, what I believe, what I'm for, and what I would like to do if I were president."

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report