For 'Dollar' Bill Bradley, Money Talks

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Can money buy you love? "Dollar" Bill Bradley certainly hopes so, because he's suddenly got lots of the green stuff. The Bradley campaign proudly disclosed Thursday that it raised $6.7 million between July and September, nipping Al Gore's total of $6.5 million for the same period. Perhaps more important, Bradley has spent less than the vulnerable veep he's got more than $10 million in the bank as of Thursday, while Gore aides estimated their man had more like $9.5 million. TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan isn't ready to crown Bradley yet he's still way behind Gore in any poll conducted outside of the Northeast but he knows that a gaudy bank account can get you far with those political early birds, the pundits.

"Fund-raising has really become the chattering class's first gauge of a campaign's viability," he says. "Think of when Bradley got his first bounce, when his campaign moved past its quixotic phase. It was when he'd raised $9 million. Then he was taken seriously." Maybe more important: where the new money is coming from. When he launched his bid, Bradley went straight to the fat wallets the same elite that got him started toward the Senate in 1978. Now, says spokeswoman Anita Dunn, "We're excited about the number of small donors, both through our Internet site and through the mail." She knows where those small donors got the idea: national ink about who Bill Bradley was and how everybody ought to take him seriously, because his checking account gave him a real shot. And you thought the best things in life were free.