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From hardwood to grassroots

Few people knew who he was several months ago. Even though he played in the National Basketball Association and served in the U.S. Senate from New Jersey, the man's name could have been Nobody as far as most of America was concerned. And Nobody had no shot at winning the Democratic ticket in the 2000 Presidential election.

Since then, Presidential hopeful Bill Bradley has come into the limelight with his Sept. 8 bid for the Democratic ticket. He has gained even a grassroots following on college campuses nationwide.

On Grounds this grassroots group is called Students for Bradley, and it is working to increase the candidate's exposure through word of mouth.

"We just really need to get his name out there," said Lara Covington, fourth-year College student and member of the University's Students For Bradley. "When we set up a table on the Lawn to recruit new members, students thought he was someone running for class council."

First-year Law student Adam Green planted the seed for the University's chapter of Students for Bradley in August when he decided to support Bradley.

By August, with Vice President Al Gore down in the polls, Green said he believed Bradley was the better candidate.

Green, a native of New Jersey and a long-time Democrat, also agreed with Bradley's politics. He was drawn to Bradley's health care plan, which he said could provide health care to more adults than Gore's plan. He said he also approved of Bradley's emphasis on race relations and campaign finance reform.

"If we're campaigning for one, we're campaigning against another candidate. I just couldn't see campaigning against Bradley. He stood for too many good things," Green said.

Having participated in several New Jersey and Virginia campaigns in support of Democrats, Green was then able to put his campaign skills to work.

In September, Green attended the University Democrat's meeting after Bradley announced his bid for the Democratic nomination. He passed out a sign-up sheet for students interested in joining Students for Bradley. Forty-five students signed up. Another 190 registered on one afternoon when Students for Bradley set up a table on the Lawn.

This is how Students for Bradley at the University was created. And at the same time, a movement was born.

Green said over 200 student organizers from around the country are actively working to publicize Bradley in their communities. Chapters of Students for Bradley are popping up on campuses across the country. Harvard University was among the first campuses to have an organization for Bradley, and the Harvard chapter continues to be among the most active, Green said.

"We've been making literature to mail to other organizers. The University is in the hub of Bradley activism nationwide," he said.

So far Bradley is the only candidate to enjoy a growing nationwide grassroots movement led mainly by college students, a fact that may have an impact on the primaries, he added.

"The big conservative story here is that there is no grassroots movement at the University in support of conservatives," he added.

Fourth-year College student and College Republicans President John Blair said that in order for student Republicans to support their favorite candidate, they have to join the individual support group for each candidate.

"While maybe not as visible as Students for Badley, we do have a number of groups to support the Republican presidential candidates," Blair said.

This week Students for George Bush formed in order to rally support for the candidate and Blair said Students for Steve Forbes recently traveled to D.C. to meet the candidate.

"Next semester we'll follow the election closely and plan on debates for next semester," he said.

Students for Bradley members, such as third-year College student Rebecca Rowan, attribute this to the growing public nausea toward phony politicians in the wake of the Clinton impeachment scandal.

"After Clinton, [Americans] are tired of having the general sense of being set up with scandal," Rowan said.

Like many college students, Rowan's political activism has stretched little beyond debating her conservative father who says he might vote for Reform Party hopeful Pat Buchanan.

Rowan said she became involved with Bradley's campaign after she decided Bradley was a better candidate than Gore.

"Gore is going to lose. He is losing the media campaign," she said. "If you want a Democrat in the White House in 2000, you've got to back Bradley."

Rowan made the 14-hour car ride to Manchester, New Hampshire along with 11 other University Bradley supporters during the first weekend of November.

These 12 students joined 1,000 other Bradley supporters and roamed New Hampshire neighborhoods, speaking with the locals to spread publicity for Bradley. The students also had the opportunity to meet Bradley.

"He seemed very personable and very solid. You know he is a man of character," Rowan said.

Although Bradley did not have time to speak at length to the University students, Green said he did agree to try to come to the University to speak sometime after March. Green is in the process of making this tentative agreement a reality by talking with members of Bradley's campaign.

Other tentative plans for Students for Bradley include sponsoring speakers and holding rallies. The organization also may sponsor a party for its members during which partygoers will watch the televised Gore-Bradley debates.

Green said Students for Bradley will try to reach students who are the most likely to be liberal by speaking with student organizations that have liberal slants.

Another way they have reached out to students is through "Bradley parties."

Bradley parties are just like regular parties except Bradley posters serve as decoration, Green said.

"Bradley parties have also been a big success in Harvard," he added with a chuckle.

With all this activism, supporters say Bradley will not lose the general election if he wins the Democratic nomination. Even so, the possibility exists that Bradley might only get on the Democratic ticket as vice president under Gore.

"He's not a vice president," Green said. "If he loses the presidential nomination, we will all move to Guam and elect Bradley as Chancellor."

In the meantime, as students supporting Bradley graduate from college, most said they will vote for Gore should Bradley lose the presidential nomination.

But Green is confident Bradley will win the ticket.

"You know how in physics a force in motion stays in motion? Bradley is just like that," he said. "He has never lost anything in his life. We don't think he'll lose this either"

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