By Ananda Shorey
WASHINGTON – Bill Bradley brought his Democratic presidential campaign to the University of Maryland College Park where he got a lukewarm response from about 1,000 supporters and curious onlookers Friday.
Bradley’s supporters said the large, diverse crowd that turned out for their candidate on a dismal, snowy day showed that the former New Jersey senator has a solid bloc of Maryland supporters.
But others, including several supporters of Vice President Al Gore, said they were not swayed by Bradley’s speech, which touched on poverty, racial equality, education, gun control, health care and fundamental campaign finance reform.
Bradley told the largely sleepy crowd that his goal is to fulfill the dreams of the American people by following “a road of possibility guided by goodness.”
“If you agree with me that there is goodness in most of us, we can make good things happen,” he said.
The rally was slow to get started, with College Democrats trying unsuccessfully to lead the crowd in cheers for at least 20 minutes. But the crowd exploded the minute Bradley walked into the room.
“Before I went to the speech I was pretty sure I would vote for Bradley,” said Walt Coatsworth, a College Park alumnus. “After listening to Bradley and meeting him, now I know I will definitely vote for him.”
But others said they did not think the speech captivated the audience or changed anyone’s mind.
Meryl Lubran, a Gore supporter, said she was not impressed with the speech. The University of Maryland sophomore said that Bradley did not reach the students, nor did he make her decide to change her vote.
“I am still a Gore supporter,” Lubran said. “A lot of people were only there because they were curious.”
While Bradley’s welcome from students was lackluster, it was downright chilly from two of Maryland’s leading Democrats.
Gov. Parris Glendening and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, welcomed Bradley to Maryland in a prepared one-paragraph statement that then went on to praise Gore’s college education initiatives, calling the vice president a “true friend of students.”
Both Glendening and Hoyer are Gore supporters.
Friday’s rally was not Bradley’s first visit to the College Park campus. He was the first distinguished leadership scholar at the university’s James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, from 1997 to 1998, later served on the academy’s Board of Advisors and is now its chair emeritus.
The rally was Bradley’s only stop in Maryland Friday. After the speech, he was scheduled to fly to New York.
When asked if he would return to Maryland before the March 7 primary, Bradley said, “Hopefully.” Campaign aides could not say if or when that might be, however.