The Presidential Primaries:
Triumph of the Frontrunners
Three developments marked the primaries, often the most contentious and interesting part of the election year. First, the early front-runners, Vice President Al Gore for the Democrats and Texas Governor George W. Bush for the Republicans, entered the election year as the odds-on favorites to win their party's nominations. Each had the money, staffing, organized support at the state level, and name recognition that leads to success. Each also was the choice of their party's most influential elites and of the formal party organization. Second, each faced initially stiff competition from unexpected sources: former U. S. Senator from New Jersey and college and professional basketball star Bill Bradley for the Democrats and Arizona Senator John McCain for the Republicans. And third, the initial frontrunners overcame spirited contests early in the prenomination season, to win overwhelmingly.
In the early Democratic primaries, Bradley positioned himself to the left of Gore and argued that the vice president did not represent the values of the liberals in his party, the group that would dominate the primary electorate. Bradley's was a surprise candidacy. He retired from the Senate in 1996 after having served three terms where he was considered something of a loner. He was not a particularly influential senator nor an acknowledged party leader nor liberal spokesperson. He was also not noted for his love of campaigning nor for the rough-and-tumble that