Bill Bradley presidential campaign, 2000

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Bradley ran in the 2000 presidential primaries, opposing incumbent Vice President Al Gore for his party's nomination. Bradley campaigned as the liberal alternative to Gore, taking positions to the left of Gore on a number of issues, including universal health care, gun control, and campaign finance reform.

On the issue of taxes, Bradley trumpeted his sponsorship of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which had significantly cut tax rates while abolishing dozens of loopholes. He voiced his belief that the best possible tax code would be one with low rates and no loopholes, but he refused to rule out the idea of raising taxes to pay for his health care program.

On public education, Bradley reversed his previous support of school vouchers, declaring them a failure. He proposed to make over $2 billion in block grants available to each state every year for education. He further promised to bring 60,000 new teachers into the education system annually by offering college scholarships to anyone who agreed to become a teacher after graduating.

Bradley also made child poverty a significant issue in his campaign. Having voted against the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, better known as the "Welfare Reform Act," which, he said, would result in even higher poverty levels, he promised to repeal it as president. He also promised to address the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, allow single parents on welfare to keep their child support payments, make the Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable, build support homes for pregnant teenagers, enroll 400,000 more children in Head Start, and increase the availability of food stamps.

Although Gore was considered the party favorite, Bradley did receive several high-profile endorsements. He was supported by Senators Paul Wellstone, Bob Kerrey, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan; former Senators John A. Durkin and Adlai Stevenson III; Governor John Kitzhaber and Tony Knowles; former Governors Lowell Weicker (a former Republican), Jim Guy Tucker, Mario Cuomo, Tony Earl, Ray Mabus, Brendan Byrne, Robert W. Scott, Neil Goldschmidt, Philip W. Noel, Kenneth M. Curtis, and Patrick Lucey; Congresspeople George Miller, Bill Lipinski, Pete Stark, Jerrold Nadler, Luis Gutiérrez, Anna Eshoo, Jim McDermott, and Diana DeGette; former Congresspeople Jim McNulty, Mary Rose Oakar, Michael J. Harrington, Andy Jacobs, and David Skaggs; former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich; former New York City Mayor Ed Koch; former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; filmmaker Spike Lee; San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano; Seattle Mayor Paul Schell; Harvard Professor Cornel West; feminist icon Betty Friedan; former Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox; and basketball stars Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson.

Bradley's campaign initially had strong prospects, due to high-profile endorsements and as his fundraising efforts gave him a deep war chest. However, it floundered, in part because it was overshadowed by Senator John McCain's far more attention-gaining, but ultimately unsuccessful, campaign for the Republican nomination; McCain had stolen Bradley's "thunder" on several occasions. Bradley was much embarrassed by his two to one defeat in the Iowa caucus, despite spending heavily there, as the unions pledged their support for Gore. He then lost the New Hampshire primary 53-47%. Bradley finished a distant second during each of the primaries on Super Tuesday.