Opinion: Breaking News: Ex-Senator Bradley to endorse Barack Obama

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Former Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey, a former Democratic presidential candidate who unsuccessfully challenged Vice President Al Gore for their party’s 2000 presidential nomination, will endorse Barack Obama and campaign with the Illinois senator in New Hampshire Monday.

The endorsement was leaked to several news organizations during the night as part of an Obama effort to dominate the news in the closing hours of the primary race in Tuesday’s New Hampshire voting. According to one report, Bradley waited this long to endorse Obama because he wanted to let another former senator, John Edwards, have a fair shot at winning the nomination and has now concluded Obama is the best bet.

In a statement prepared for release later today, Bradley will praise Obama for working to build a wide coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents in his bid to become the first African American presidential nominee for a major party.

The 64-year-old Bradley, a member of the NBA Hall of Fame, served three terms as a senator from New Jersey, where he attended Princeton. He was first elected to the Senate in 1978 with 55% of the vote and became known as something of an aloof policy wonk. He was re-elected in 1984 with 64% of the vote but nearly lost in 1990 to a then-largely unknown Republican named Christine Todd Whitman. In 1996, Bradley declined to run again, claiming American politics was broken.


Four years later he ran for president on the liberal side of Gore and enjoyed a burst of wide popularity. But his insurgent campaign could not compete for publicity with an insurgent in the Republican party who’s still around, Sen. John McCain, who badly beat his party’s establishment candidate, George W. Bush, in New Hampshire and, according to some polls, has taken the GOP lead there again in recent days. Bradley’s 2000 campaign ultimately dissipated because it could not match Gore’s fundraising and organization.

Bradley’s endorsement power may help Obama among New Hampshire liberals and independents, which could hurt McCain, also popular with independents there. But the last presidential candidacy Bradley endorsed didn’t work out so well. Along with Gore in 2004, Bradley supported the doomed presidential bid of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

--Andrew Malcolm