Massachusetts voters heading to the polls tomorrow to participate in their party's primaries will be partaking in a decisive stage of the presidential election. Dubbed "Super Tuesday," voting in 16 states will determine nearly a third of the delegates who are sent to the Republican and Democratic conventions. Although much of the attention will be focused on New York and California, Massachusetts is widely regarded as a crucial New England state. In this light, we take this opportunity to reaffirm our endorsement of former Sen. Bill Bradley for the Democratic party and Arizona Sen. John S. McCain on the Republican side.
It would be unrealistic to ignore that Bradley's campaign has slowed considerably since his strong showing in New Hampshire last month. A resounding loss in Washington State, where he spent six straight days of campaigning, has lead many to discount Bradley as a serious contender for his party's nomination. What is unfortunate, however, is that Bradley's decline in the polls stems more from a shift in public image rather than his stance on substantive policy issues. Bradley's unhurried and deliberate debating style--once characterized by pundits as a cerebral, "Olympian" calm--is now seen as a lack of enthusiasm for the presidential post. After his ill-timed responses to criticisms by his opponent, Vice President Al Gore '69, Bradley has been beleaguered by the "going negative" label.
Nevertheless, Bradley's stances on important policy positions remain sound. Bradley's ambitious health care plan addresses the very real and pressing problem experienced by the one-sixth of the American population who have no health insurance. His $65 million plan would ensure near-universal and affordable coverage. Although Bradley has yet to address specific funding issues, he is the only presidential candidate firmly committed to the plausible ideal of universal health coverage. Beyond health care, Bradley has not wavered from his promise of campaign finance reform and has had a relatively clean record when it comes to fundraising. In education, he has vowed to forgive loans for students who earn teaching certification and plan to work in poor schools. This is a promising way of addressing the current teacher shortage and indicates that Bradley is in tune with the single greatest crisis facing American public education.
On the Republican side, we urge voters to cast their ballot for McCain. McCain's straight-talking, brash style has earned him the affection of the media, much to the chagrin of his party's establishment. But more importantly, McCain has given the GOP a rare opportunity to reevaluate its current party base. He has courageously condemned the leaders of the religious right and their pernicious influence, particularly in the form of religious litmus tests. Although we are far from comfortable with many McCain's socially conservative positions--such as his stances on abortion and gun control--McCain's commitment to campaign finance reform and willingness to depart from party leadership throws a certain weight behind his self-proclaimed status as a reformer.
To win their party's nomination, both Bradley and McCain will have to climb an uphill road. Bradley faces the challenge of reinvigorating a campaign that some have dismissed altogether. McCain must find a way to attract more support from within his party, since many of the upcoming primaries are open only to registered Republicans. But we urge Bradley and McCain supporters, particularly those who are tempted to believe that the primary race is all but over, to cast their vote tomorrow. The chance to participate in a primary election as competitive and as healthy as this one should not be foregone.