Serious early speculation surrounded Bill Bradley, a U.S. Senator and former basketball player for the New York Knicks, who had long been considered a potential Democratic contender for the presidency. In December 1998, Bradley formed a presidential exploratory committee and began organizing a campaign. Gore, however, had been considered the favorite for the Democratic nomination as early as 1997, with the commencement of President Bill Clinton’s second term. Though numerous candidates for the Democratic nomination tested the waters, including Senator John Kerry, Governor Howard Dean, Representative Richard Gephardt, and Reverend Jesse Jackson, only Gore and Bradley ultimately entered the contest.
Bill 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 pushed for increased federal funding for schools under Title I, as well as the expansion of the Head Start program. 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 both Gore and Bradley showed comparable success in terms of fund-raising, Bradley lagged behind Gore in many polls from the start and never gained a competitive position. Despite the late endorsement of the Des Moines Register, Bradley went on to be defeated in the Iowa Caucus; Gore garnered 64% of the votes, while Bradley received only 35%. Gore won the primary competition in New Hampshire as well, though by a significantly smaller margin, receiving 52% to Bradley’s 47%. After a resounding defeat on Super Tuesday, with Bradley failing to carry the majority of delegates in a single state, he withdrew from the race on March 9.
Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was nominated for Vice President by voice vote. Lieberman became the first Jewish American ever to be chosen for this position by a major party. Other potential running-mates included;