The two people atop the staff of Bill Bradley's presidential campaign date their association with the candidate to his first run for the Senate in 1978. Doug Berman served as Bradley's deputy campaign manager. Gina Glantz backed two of Bradley's Democratic primary opponents.
"I thought he was a basketball player trading on his fame," Glantz said of her feelings toward the former New York Knicks star forward at the time. "But like all converts, I became a zealot."
Glantz now serves as the campaign manager for Bradley's presidential bid, while Berman is campaign chairman. Together they lead a team of top advisers who, with rare exception, share a long history with the candidate. And like Glantz, their devotion to the Bradley borders on the reverential. As senior adviser Anita Dunn put it, "This campaign is about Bill."
In a year when Vice President Gore, Bradley's rival for the Democratic nomination, has made and remade and continues to refine his senior campaign team, the core of Bradley's campaign has been stable, unchanging and largely anonymous.
"These are Bradley people," said Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster, "and it's a huge advantage to have a team who knows the candidate and who the candidate knows. You can see they function very effectively as a team. It's a campaign in sync with itself."
They operate out of a nondescript suite of offices in the New Jersey suburbs. On the road they often double up in inexpensive motels. Ask Berman the title of one or another of Bradley's top aides and he replies, "We're not very good on titles. Everybody's a senior adviser."
Their experience in recent presidential campaigns is minimal to nonexistent. Berman, for example, oversaw northern Wisconsin in the 1976 Carter-Mondale campaign, his one and only presidential campaign assignment. The last presidential campaign Glantz participated in was Walter F. Mondale's losing effort in 1984. Dunn last worked in former Ohio senator John Glenn's failed bid for the Democratic nomination that same year.
"It's a group of people who are experienced outside the Clinton-Gore campaign," said Will Robinson, who worked in the Mondale campaign and later worked for Michael S. Dukakis's losing campaign in 1988.
But they know one another well. Glantz and Robinson met during the Mondale campaign. Dunn and Eric Hauser, the campaign's press secretary, worked together in Bradley's Senate office in the early 1990s. Berman and Richard Wright, a Princeton teammate of Bradley's who runs the fund-raising operation, go back two decades. Marcia Aronoff, who recently joined the campaign full time as senior policy adviser, is a former chief of staff in the Senate office.
They are, as Berman puts it, family. "We have lived through life together and have interacted in ways that extend outside of this campaign," he added. "It creates an environment for success."
Over the course of the past 10 months, they have helped Bradley turn the battle with Gore into an unexpectedly close contest. From the beginning, the campaign adopted the attitude of an underdog but moved forward with the confidence of a front-runner.
"It's an insurgency," Robinson said of the campaign. "But it's unlike any other insurgency I've been involved in. It has the money, it has the resources, the talent, the expertise to do what it has to do."
That meant that the first part of Bradley's campaign plan focused on raising $20 million or more this year, not only to create instant credibility for his candidacy but to ensure that he could compete beyond the early primaries next year--a problem that often afflicts insurgent candidacies. That also meant Bradley's campaign will make certain that he qualifies slates of delegates everywhere, even in complicated states like New York, where underdog candidates often have failed to do so.
"This is not a crusade," Glantz said. "It's a campaign for the presidency."
Berman, 47, was a natural choice to chair Bradley's campaign. He ran Bradley's Senate reelection campaign in 1984, ran Democrat Jim Florio's successful campaign for governor of New Jersey in 1989 and has been a Bradley intimate throughout. A lawyer, Berman served as New Jersey state treasurer under Florio, has worked as a businessman at other points in his career and for a time headed Campaign for America, an organization that advocates campaign finance reform.
Berman, described by others as the most analytical political thinker on the team, sets overall strategy for the campaign and sometimes acts as a surrogate for Bradley on the road. He also tries to anticipate where the campaign should be heading. "I probably spend more time peering over the horizon."
He also has proven to be the author of tartly written letters to the Gore campaign, challenging the vice president on subjects ranging from campaign finance to debate schedules.
For Glantz, 56, who runs the day-to-day operation, the presidential campaign marks the first time she has worked for Bradley. She ran the campaign for one of Bradley's 1978 primary opponents and, when he dropped out, she supported another opponent. As she puts it, "Bill was my third choice in 1978."
After the Mondale campaign, in which she served as national field director, she moved from New Jersey to California to open a political consulting firm. But whenever her work brought her to Washington, she stopped in to see Bradley in the Senate. "A friendship grew out of that," Glantz said.
Dunn, 41, who handles communications strategy, got her start in politics while still in college, when she obtained an internship in the Carter White House, answering phones in the office of Hamilton Jordan, and then worked in Carter's 1980 reelection campaign. After the Glenn campaign in 1984, she worked for a Pennsylvania House member, Bob Edgar, and later moved to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
She was recruited to play Republican Christine Todd Whitman--the current New Jersey governor--against Bradley in the debate prep in the 1990 campaign, and for the record says she hammered Bradley on the tax issue that nearly sunk him that year against Whitman. After the election, she interviewed for the press secretary's job in Gore's office, but ended up in Bradley's Senate office instead.
Robinson, 40, is the campaign's jack of all trades. His principal responsibility is to oversee the campaign's paid advertising effort, but because of his background, Robinson also has helped build Bradley's Iowa organization and was in the thick of the campaign's unsuccessful effort to deny Gore the AFL-CIO endorsement earlier this month.
He started working in politics while still in high school, for the same Pennsylvania House member--Bob Edgar--Dunn worked for. After college he went to work for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He also worked for the Democratic National Committee in the late 1980s and early 1990s, eventually leaving to help form his own political consulting firm.
How did he first get to know the candidate? "I was on the Knicks with Bradley," Robinson said without missing a beat. In reality, he met Bradley through an organization designed to put people back into politics.
Hauser, 37, came to Washington after college and started out selling Time-Life books. Eventually he landed a press job on Capitol Hill for the delegate from American Samoa. "I was hired as press secretary because English was my first language," he said.
Before joining Bradley's staff in 1991, Hauser worked for New York's Charles E. Schumer, then a House member and now the state's junior senator. Hauser left Bradley's staff in December 1994 and eventually opened what he calls "a left-wing PR firm."
Wright, 56, has known Bradley the longest of anyone in the campaign inner circle, having played basketball with him at Princeton. He served in the Carter administration and was co-host for Bradley's first Washington fund-raiser in the 1978 campaign, which raised $1,300. Later he served as deputy state treasurer of New Jersey under Berman and was Florio's last chief of staff in the governor's office.
"I always told him that if he ran for president, I'd help him," Wright said of Bradley. And it was sometime in the spring of 1998 that he was convinced his old friend was finally going to run. "It was his body language," Wright said. "It was just different. It was this kind of focus."
Members of the close-knit staff claim Bradley's campaign is different from others they have worked in, with less internal tension and more outright fun. "It's refreshing not to have to watch your back," Robinson said. "There's very little infighting. And there are no leaks."
What is the common bond that ties this group together? "Him," Hauser said, referring to Bradley. "There is an admiration and respect for the person he is as a public figure," Berman added, "The style, tenor and purpose of this campaign all flows from Bill Bradley. It's not about tactics. It's a campaign as an extension of how you would govern."
CAPTION: Democratic presidential contender Bill Bradley makes a point during an address at the American Magazine Conference in Boca Raton, Fla., last week.