For one day, and perhaps only one day, Bill Bradley and Vice President Gore will ask voters on Monday to look up from the fine points of the candidates' dueling health care prescriptions and consider a bigger choice.
Maybe the millennial spirit got into them, or maybe they want to be able to say they tried to be high-minded in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 24 and the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 1. But both candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination will pause in their name-calling on the same day to outline the grand ideas behind their quests. Bradley is even billing his speech as a "vision for America in the new millennium."
Both campaigns were still shuffling their drafts yesterday, so the specifics are bound to change. But as described by advisers, the speeches promise to offer an easy-to-grasp distinction between the two men's agendas.
Bradley is promising to do a few big things, including providing health insurance to all children and most adults, that he believes can be accomplished.
Gore, on the other hand, will argue that with such a strong economy, the country should not settle for progress in one or two areas but instead should be able to make headway on many fronts at once, including schools, health care and the environment.
Bradley--who is cutting his New Year's weekend one day short to speak in Boston and hold a town meeting in Concord, N.H., today--will give his vision speech before workers and supporters at a science-and-technology center in Manchester, N.H., on Monday, when Gore is scheduled to address students and community members at a high school gym in Davenport, Iowa.
Gore plans to describe a style of leadership that can bring about change, pointing out that President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal created jobs through the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps at the same time that he was winning passage of the Social Security Act and gearing up for World War II.
Gore is to argue that America does not need to nibble around the edges, but instead can take bold steps in several directions. And he has said that Bradley's health insurance plan would leave little money for improvements in education, setting up what he considers to be a false choice.
Returning to the more typical rhetoric of recent weeks, Gore also plans to attack Bradley's ideas as not big, but just bad and expensive. Gore is set to emphasize the importance of fiscal discipline--an implicit criticism of Bradley's expensive programs--in maintaining the nation's prosperity.
Scheduled to speak several hours earlier, Bradley plans to declare that the difference between himself and Gore is accomplishing things rather than talking about them.
In his stump speech, Bradley says that emphasizing a few issues would give him a clearer mandate.
"When Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980," Bradley tells audiences, "he came into office having said he wanted to do a few specific things. When he won, many Democrats in Congress went along with him because they thought the people had spoken. I think the same thing could happen if I would win by a sizable margin."
Bradley plans to detail the importance of optimism and national spirit in a country that has gained its strength and moved forward on the basis of a sunny outlook.
Bradley is to argue that America has accomplished big things before--Medicare, Social Security, the Civil Rights Act--and should not shy away from similarly ambitious goals now.
"He wants to call all of us to a higher ground and unify us around a common national purpose," said Bradley's press secretary, Eric Hauser. "Clarity of mission gives voters a sense of trust in the candidate."
Bradley plans to contend that the imperative of bold leadership is to make sure that everyone is included, and to invoke a national spirit that would show American public life to be more than just elections and votes and legislation.
Hauser said Bradley is ready for a ferocious two months leading up to the cluster of primaries on March 7.
"Our goal was to get to 2000 and not just be interesting and not just be competitive, but be in a position to win," Hauser said. "It's still a fight against entrenched power and the political apparatus, but we think that we're in a position where we can win."
Gore's spokesman, Chris Lehane, said the vice president's Monday speech should establish "that there are major differences between these candidates on ways of improving health care and on making education a national priority, supporting Medicare and keeping the economy strong."
"The voters are going to begin focusing more and more on specific issues," Lehane said.