With little to distinguish them on issues, the Gore-Bradley contest in New Hampshire was really a test of whether voters might have enough "Clinton fatigue" to take it out on the vice president.
That small state's primary has traditionally not been kind to the Democratic establishment's choice. Al Gore, who has tried mightily to distance himself from President Clinton, squeaked by with 52 percent to Bill Bradley's 47 percent of the vote.
Now Gore may definitely not want his boss's help for the rest of the primaries. Bradley has found he can win over anti-Clinton Democrats by attacking Gore's truthfulness, appealing to character more than issues.
Still, Bradley should not think that voters want personal attacks. He can appeal for votes by promising reform within the Democratic establishment.
Gore's victory was largely due to support from unions and a party elite that supports Clinton-Gore's dubious ways of raising money from well-heeled contributors.
Tuesday's close result also should encourage Bradley to stay in the race and "stay on message" with his compassionate call for reform in health care. His heartfelt genuineness on this and other traditional Democratic issues has elevated the campaign.
At the same time, Bradley must realize that if he continues to lose primaries but still stays in the race, he may hurt his party's chances in the November election. That tactical call will take the very high level of virtue he's calling for.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society