A new nationwide Washington Post poll finds Vice President Gore losing ground in his battle with Bill Bradley for the Democratic nomination.

Of the Democratic voters surveyed, 56 percent said they favored Gore while 33 percent prefer Bradley. That's a drop of 13 percentage points for the vice president since the last poll was conducted in early September. Two weeks ago, Gore announced he was shaking up his troubled campaign by trimming staff and moving his headquarters to Nashville.

A new poll in Iowa puts the Democratic contest within the margin of error. Although surveys in Iowa can be risky business--because it is hard to know who will participate in the state's Jan. 24 caucuses--the poll is noteworthy because it is one of the first to show Bradley moving up in Iowa.

In California, Gore continues to hold a comfortable lead among Democrats but Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said Bradley performs equally well against Texas Gov. George W. Bush in that state.

Gore spokeswoman Kiki Moore would not speculate on why the numbers are slipping in several surveys but noted he leads in plenty of others.

She likes the latest Zogby International poll, with Gore pulling ahead of Bradley in New York, 41 percent to 38 percent, and the Pew Research Center's national survey showing Gore closing the gap with Bush.

Rendell's Candor Sparks Discontent

Philadelphia Mayor Edward Rendell's candor about a slim Democratic bench has some in his party grumbling.

Rendell, incoming chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said his dream ticket for fall 2000 would be Gore-Bradley. A Gore supporter who said that in his job as party chairman he will remain studiously neutral, Rendell told The Post last week that he cannot think of another Democrat to put on the ticket with the vice president. "I don't know where else Al would find anybody who would really help," he said.

The report prompted an angry letter from the head of the DNC's Hispanic Caucus and more anti-Rendell whispers at party headquarters on Capitol Hill.

In it, Nelson Diaz cites Energy Secretary Bill Richardson as a prime example of capable minorities. "We have other major Latinos and African Americans who have led the Democratic Party and, in my opinion," he wrote, "are more qualified to be considered for vice president of the United States than Anglo Americans as the only ethnic group who can represent the diversity of America."

Environmentalists Target Gore

In the you-always-hurt-the-one-you-love category, yet another group of environmentalists is targeting Gore. The first in a series of four full-page newspaper ads began running yesterday to pressure Gore to weigh in in favor of removing the four Lower Snake River dams in an effort to protect endangered salmon.

"Don't let time run out for the salmon," the ad says. "Vice President Al Gore will help decide their fate."

The ads are sponsored by the Columbia and Snake Rivers Campaign, which includes Indian tribes, environmental groups and outdoor clothing maker Patagonia.

Quotable I

Patrick J. Buchanan, talking to supporters about his chances of winning the presidency as the Reform Party nominee: "If I get into the race, my determination will be to get into the debates, and if I get into a free-wheeling forum . . . I think I can become the president of the United States because I think it is a volatile election and I think voters would see an agenda that is new and different."

Quotable II

Democratic strategist James Carville talking to reporters yesterday about the departures of former House speaker Newt Gingrich and independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr: "Gingrich is gone, Starr is gone; a guy can't have any fun in this town any more."

CAPTION: Edward Rendell, incoming Democratic National Committee head, likes a Gore-Bradley ticket.