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Time.com

Gearing up for Super Tuesday, Bradley drops education bomb

February 10, 2000
Web posted at: 4:50 PM EST (2150 GMT)

(TIME.com) -- In his latest bid to recapture some of the campaign spotlight and paint himself as a "big issue" candidate, Bill Bradley unveiled an $80 billion proposal to aid schools in poor communities Wednesday. It wasn't chance timing: There are just three weeks until Super Tuesday, when 16 states hold primaries, and polls list education as the most important issue among Democratic voters. What remains to be seen is whether the plan will fare better than previous big-issue liberal proposals that failed to rescue Bradley from the shadows of John McCain and Al Gore. Bradley's health care reform and child-poverty-alleviation proposals didn't inspire a noticeable chunk of Democrats, while campaign finance reform, once one of his most popular themes, was somehow gobbled up as a campaign issue by McCain.

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Gearing Up for Super Tuesday
 

Bradley's proposal calls for doubling the budget of Title I, the program that provides direct federal aid to poor school districts, to $16 billion per year, which should play well with liberals. But it also contains initiatives popular among centrists, including making funding contingent on school performance (a page taken from George W.'s platform), raising teacher training requirements and allowing Title I students to leave underperforming schools. This last measure, a form of school choice, could even score points with conservatives. But the plan has the same weak spot as previous Bradley proposals: While larger in scale, it's similar in ideology to a Gore plan that also targets class size and teacher training.

Welcome to Campaign 2000, a time of unprecedented national prosperity in which the public doesn't want to rock the boat -- or the vote. Bradley once fashioned himself a latter-day Eugene McCarthy, a liberal senator who'd inspire college-educated liberals into building a multiracial liberal platform. But this isn't 1968, and there's nothing dramatic like a war or a battle to desegregate the South to unite voters. Conservative candidates are facing the same plight: This isn't 1980 and the nation isn't inspired by recessions and military embarrassments. Hence there was no appetite for Steve Forbes' flat tax or Orrin Hatch's calls for increased military spending. Forbes became the latest casualty when he dropped out of the race Tuesday. The big question now is how long the Democratic race can tolerate a crowd of two.

Copyright © 2000 Time Inc.



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