Presidential hopeful Bill Bradley received a key endorsement today from Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who decided late last year not to seek the Democratic nomination himself.

"Bill has the vision to challenge America to greatness and the integrity to restore the nation's faith in our public institutions," Kerrey said at a breakfast where he and Bradley flipped pancakes.

Bradley, a former senator from New Jersey and former New York Knicks basketball star, is making a solid fund-raising run against Vice President Gore. Bradley has raised about $11.5 million to Gore's $18.2 million in the first six months of the campaign. He also trails in the polls.

Kerrey and Bradley later traveled to Des Moines. Iowa's precinct caucuses begin the presidential nominating season.

"With the political instability in the world around us and special concerns here at home, we need a leader like Bill who is not afraid to make the tough decisions," Kerrey said. "He has the steady hand and foresight necessary to be an effective commander-in-chief."

Kerrey is a decorated Vietnam War hero who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination in 1992. He also has served as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

"Bob Kerrey is an American hero," Bradley said. "He is a man with unquestioned conviction and stands out in the Senate as a courageous leader on issues that define our future."

The endorsement did not come as a surprise. There have been tensions between Kerrey and the Clinton administration, and one reason Kerrey cited for not running in 2000 was Bradley's presence in the field, giving Democrats a choice of candidates.

Gore has the backing of much of the Democratic Party's establishment, including leaders in the House and Senate. Sen. Paul D. Wellstone (D-Minn.) is the only other senator who has endorsed Bradley.

CAPTION: In Des Moines, candidate Bill Bradley laughs at remarks by Sen. Bob Kerrey.