Salem, NH (CNSNews.com) - Facing possible defeat at the hands of Vice president Al Gore in Monday's Iowa Caucus, Bill Bradley Thursday began preparing his New Hampshire supporters for the possibility of defeat in Iowa.
Appearing at a local rally, Bradley characterized Iowa as "a state that rewards entrenched power," a reference to Gore's strong support amongst party loyalists.
Bradley insisted the Iowa results would not affect his showing in the New Hampshire presidential primary, which takes place on February 1. "I don't think there will be a direct connection. I think New Hampshire voters are independent. They make their own judgments," said the former New Jersey senator.
For several weeks, as polls show Gore's support growing in Iowa, Bradley's forces have worked overtime to lower expectations there. Campaign officials now say that given Gore's entrenched support among party regulars, a caucus showing of 30 percent for Bradley would be considered a success.
"I think Iowa represents a state that rewards entrenched power...we are working very hard there and I think we've been making progress," he said.
Bradley no doubt is concerned about his own Granite State polls, which indicate Gore has a very small lead in this state. Some fear a poor showing by Bradley in Iowa could lead to momentum for Al Gore in New Hampshire.
In Iowa, recent polls have Gore leading Bradley by as much as 20 percent. Still, Bradley discounts the notion that if he loses in both places, Gore is all but assured of the Democratic nomination. "That's the spin that's out there today...it's certainly not reality."
According to Bradley, Iowa and New Hampshire are the prelude to a broader campaign set for March. "We have the resources to wage both campaigns," he said.
Meanwhile, as the campaigning continues, so does the debate over Bradley and Gore's respective health care plans.
Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a physician, endorsed Gore Wednesday in the border city of Lebanon, NH, telling supporters the vice president's health care plan was "more realistic" than Bradley's.
For its part, the Bradley campaign offered up the endorsement of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, another doctor, who listed Bradley's health plan and his environmental policies among the reasons for his support.