The Clinton era ends with two white Democrats vying to succeed him — and with black voters siding with the president’s choice.
The end of the Bill Clinton impeachment saga in early 1999 coincided with the start of the 2000 presidential campaign cycle. The president’s political health, even after his admission of having had an affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern, was quite strong — a high approval rating aided by a sizzling economy.
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The Democratic nomination was up for grabs, but Clinton's popularity gave an immediate leg up to his preferred successor, Vice President Al Gore. A number of Democrats did explore running, including Jesse Jackson, who'd become a sometime spiritual adviser to the Clintons during their White House years. But Jackson, whose oldest son, Jesse Jr., had been elected to Congress in 1996, said he wasn't motivated to mount a third national effort and stayed out.
Only one candidate ended up challenging Gore: Bill Bradley, a former senator from New Jersey and NBA Hall of Famer who accused the Democratic administration of a failure of policy ambition and made eliminating childhood poverty his centerpiece issue. Bradley also emphasized racial inequality, promising to use the presidential bully pulpit to confront "white skin privilege." (“Bradley Calls for Fight Against Racism,” Owen Moritz, New York Daily News, April 21, 1999.) Thanks to his basketball roots, Bradley also attracted high-profile endorsements from several black sports legends, including Michael Jordan, Bill Russell and Julius Erving, and there was early speculation that his candidacy would resonate with black voters.
It never did, though. Consistently, polls put Gore far ahead of Bradley with black voters, 63 to 20 percent in a Gallup survey taken a few weeks before the first contest — a much wider margin than Gore's overall advantage among Democrats.