Bill Bradley, expressing frustration with attacks from the Gore campaign, swatted back today, saying his Democratic opponent has opted to "tinker around the edges" rather than tackle the nation's "big problems."

A day after Vice President Gore suggested to the same crowd of Florida party activists that Bradley would abandon Democratic pillars such as Medicare, Social Security and public schools, the New Jersey senator said his record is solid.

"I worked to protect Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security," he said, citing his 18 years on the Senate Finance Committee. "And frankly I don't remember Democrats attacking Democrats on this issue--at least not in the party I joined and in the party I'm a member of today."

Bradley said he was "dismayed" by the daily vitriol from the Gore campaign, and his aides were even sharper in their criticism. "The vice president's campaign and the vice president himself have made it clear the campaign they're running is one of attacking the opponent as opposed to attacking the problems we face in this country," said spokeswoman Anita Dunn.

Two days after an irregular heartbeat pulled him off the campaign trail, Bradley displayed no hint of trouble. His 40-minute address, a reprise of his standard pitch to party faithful, was even a bit more energetic than versions he has given at similar events in Washington and Iowa.

"I feel great," he said after speaking to the Florida State Democratic Convention. Bradley attended a fund-raiser here and will campaign in New York on Tuesday before heading to New Hampshire for two debates.

Although Iowa and New Hampshire dominate the political calendar these days, both Bradley and Gore made detours south this weekend to signal that Florida's March 14 primary is a critical contest in their nomination fight. Gore, with a plug from President Clinton, on Saturday emphasized his commitment to the environment, national defense and retirement programs--all central issues in this diverse state.

Today, Bradley unveiled a new 12-minute video, a low-budget pastiche of basketball snapshots, television clips and hometown friends "telling you all those lies," as he quipped afterward. He paid homage to the memory of Lawton Chiles, pointedly remarking that the former Democratic governor supported campaign finance reform "long before anybody else got there."

Although the crowd of several hundred tilted in Gore's favor, Bradley drew a wave of cheers with his appeal to "a larger, embracing vision."

"We're the greatest country in the world at the moment of our greatest prosperity and yet there are some people who say that we cannot do big things anymore; that we must just tinker around the edges and improve a few little things here and there," he said. "Well, I say now is not the time to settle."

He pledged to fight for universal health coverage, gun licensing, campaign finance reform and affirmative action. And rebutting Gore's criticism that he earlier supported a pilot project for private school vouchers, Bradley said: "I'm not prepared to settle for anything less than the best public schools in the world with public money for public schools.

"And you know something, I don't think you're willing to settle either," he concluded, pounding the lectern. "Democratic leaders do not settle."

With its advertising slogan "It can happen" and in introductions like the one today, the Bradley camp is hoping to create the sensation of an insurgent on the move. Duval County Sheriff Nat Glover quoted an old Negro spiritual to explain his support of Bradley:

" 'De gospel train's a comin'. . . .

Get on board, little chillun,

Get on board, little chillun,

Get on board, little chillun,

Dere's room for many a more.' "

"That's how I feel about America's prosperity train," Glover said. "There's room for many a' more. That is what Bill Bradley believes, and that is why I want Bill Bradley to be president."