With the 2000 presidential race still almost two years off, many politicians have launched "exploratory" bids to gauge the support they would draw for a run at the White House. Among the first of these Oval Office aspirants to reach out directly to supporters via e-mail is Bill Bradley, the former New Jersey senator and onetime professional basketball player, who sent out an electronic mailing to a core group of 1,500 friends and supporters last week.
The mailing, which came under the subject line "A personal message from Bill Bradley," details Bradley's tentative plans to seek the Democratic nomination for president, and gives a broad sketch of issues his campaign would stress. It doesn't specifically ask for campaign contributions, but it does encourage recipients to write, e-mail or telephone with comments. "I would run to improve the opportunity for more Americans to live healthier, more economically secure, more personally fulfilling lives," the former senator says in the e-mail.
The mailing went out on Dec. 4, to core supporters he's met in person over the past few years, said committee spokeswoman Sara Howard. On the same day Bradley registered his Presidential Exploratory Committee with the Federal Election Commission.
The FEC filing allows Bradley to accept contributions and hire staff, Howard said, although people who have not officially announced their candidacy are not required to register with the agency. The mailing is "part of the overall process" of assessing the political landscape and interacting with active party members that all potential candidates go through, she said. Sending out e-mail is also virtually cost-free, unlike paper mailings.
Bradley's exploratory committee has also launched a Web site listing Bradley's accomplishments, his stand on a variety of issues, and offering options for becoming involved in his potential campaign. The site also features a detailed survey asking readers to explain whether they know of the former senator through his political career, his basketball career or from reading his books, and asking readers to pinpoint political issues they're most interested in. Readers can also sign up to be on an e-mail update list.
Of course, Bradley isn't the only politician to take to the Web to prepare for 2000: the Democratic party's presumptive nominee, Vice President Al Gore, has a number of Web sites including an official Al Gore 2000 campaign site. Gore's campaign site doubles as an online store, offering readers the chance to buy "Gore 2000" buttons and bumper stickers, and provides a form for e-mailing comments to the vice president.
On the Republican side, former California Congressman Bob Dornan has an unofficial site hosted by an ad-hoc group of supporters. Ohio Congressman John Kasich has an official site for his own exploratory committee. Northern Illinois University has posted a round up of year 2000 election campaign sites called WhiteHouse 2000.