Just a Matter of Time Until Bradley Bows Out

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Up until the end, Bill Bradley insisted he would surprise people on Tuesday. But as the dust settled, everybody was surprised by the size of Al Gore's blowout victory over the former U.S. senator from New Jersey. Projections revealed a clean sweep for Gore among the 13 Super Tuesday states, including delegate-rich California, New York and Ohio, and a surprisingly large margin in Missouri, where Bradley was born and raised.

With both candidates having scaled back their negative campaigning in the days leading up to Tuesday, Gore has emerged as both honorable and electable, with his party firmly united behind him as he focuses his attentions on George W. Bush. In a victory speech Tuesday night in a Nashville hotel ballroom — the same place he celebrated his 1984 Senate victory — Gore repeated the mantra "Join us! Join us!," an indication that he'll aggressively seek the crossover vote. "The exit polls came in early in the day, but he remained cautious," says TIME correspondent Karen Tumulty, reporting from Gore headquarters in Nashville. "He was sitting in his hotel suite with Tipper and was being very cautious, saying he wasn't taking any votes for granted. That's become the joke around the campaign because he says it so often."

The Democratic race appears to have been a case of the hungrier candidate carrying the day. Throughout the early debates of the primary season, Gore repeatedly told Bradley: "Bill, this is not an academic exercise." And while Gore hired feminist image specialist Naomi Wolf to help convert him into a power-suit-wearing Alpha Male, Bradley remained the genteel, cardigan-wearing policy wonk he was known for being on the Senate floor. Bradley also suffered by having the air sucked out of his campaign by the fierce battle between John McCain and George W. Bush. After Bradley's strong showing in the Feb. 1 New Hampshire primary, the public focused on Republican races in Michigan, South Carolina, Delaware and Arizona, and Bradley was not able to do much to garner media attention. Gore, meanwhile, partly by virtue of being the vice president, stayed in the public eye and surged in the polls.

"[Bradley] gave a very moving speech tonight," said TIME correspondent Tamala Edwards, reporting from Bradley headquarters in Manhattan. "He's saying he's going to take [Wednesday] to think about what to do next, but there's a general sense here that this thing's over and that this was a concession speech. It was a very touching way to say good-bye. This wasn't like other campaigns — the people who supported him really believed in him." For his part, Gore was quick to mend fences, praising Bradley for bringing fresh ideas to the political arena, especially in the area of race relations, and said it was time to unify the Democratic party toward defeating the Republicans in the general election.