Gore and Bradley Trade the Friendliest of Fire

  • Share
  • Read Later
The Ultimate Fighting Championship it was not. Al Gore and Bill Bradley went face-to-face for the first time in the Democratic party primary race Wednesday night, in a matchup that had all the drama and tension of a hard-fought chess game. It was all policy as the candidates, appearing side by side in New Hampshire in a town hall meeting format, answered audience questions on everything from health care and education to gay rights and foreign policy. And besides a dispute over Bradley's big-spending big ideas for health care, the differences between their positions were more about nuance than fundamentals.

Bradley's insurgent challenge rests less on dramatic policy differences in the Democratic camp than on the fact that he's not Al Gore. His slight edge over Gore in the New Hampshire polls going into the debate meant he could simply show up and act statesmanlike, leaving Gore to go on the attack — a reversal of the traditional relationship between incumbent and insurgent. And while Gore repeatedly attacked Bradley's health plan as a big government nightmare and challenged some of his foreign policy positions, for the most part they found themselves in agreement. Which leaves Democratic voters to choose on the basis of style, which Bradley aides believe gives the challenger an edge. The former U.S. senator from New Jersey also underscored his party loyalty by declining the opportunity attack Gore over campaign finance reform. But the veep was relaxed and engaging, and in the end — despite the Gore camp's claims they'd hit a home run — the event would have to be scored a tie. And unfortunately for both men, perhaps, they shared a TV time slot with the considerably more riveting spectacle of Game 4 of the World Series.