Bill Bradley and Al Gore had their highest-profile duel of the campaign year so far Saturday, CBS News Correspondent Eric Engberg reports.
In back-to-back speeches before the Democratic National Convention, the two presidential candidates followed a script tailored to respond to criticism they lack the power to excite. For Bradley the challenge was to show he's not the humorless, distant figure some see. He kept his glasses on and was folksy, reminding the audience of his small-town roots.
He also touched the hot button issues -- gun control, civil rights, better health care -- and finished with a flourish designed to put to rest the talk that he's too cerebral to ignite a crowd. "The American dream is not simply for the lucky among us, not simply an ideal to wish on but should be available for all," Bradley said. "We're gonna win and win and win."
As for Gore, he's had nothing but bad news lately: polls showing Bradley pulling even with him in New Hampshire; Senator Patrick Moynihan calling him a loser; and criticism he's spending too much too fast.
Saturday's challenge was to show both the passion and the common touch he's been accused of lacking. He experimented with the walk-around style popularized by Elizabeth Dole. As for passion, he put the crown on notice that "We're gonna fight, fight, fight for every vote coast to coast and border to border. You better believe we're gonna win it."
As he exited to the sound of Shania Twain's "Rock this Country", Gore's backers were relieved. "If you had any doubts about Gore being interesting, entertaining, challenging, passionate, that should have put everybody's mind at ease today," explained Texas Democratic Committeeman Bob Slagle.
As Democrats, both combatants gave the party credit for the recent economic prosperity, promising more to come. But, in a slight that will not go unnoticed at the White House, Bradley mentioned President Clinton only once -- and Gore not at all.