Portsmouth, NH (CNSNews.com) - Promising Al Gore will be "our health care president," "our education president" and "our strong economy president," Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy crossed the border Wednesday and endorsed the Vice President in his bid for the White House.
The long expected endorsement, by the man widely regarded as a liberal icon, came slightly less than a month before the February 1st New Hampshire Primary, in which Gore continues to face a serious challenge from former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley.
Some polls show the two men locked in a statistical dead heat, while others have Bradley leading Gore by several percentage points.
Many Democratic activists believe the Kennedy endorsement is critical to Gore, since polls show the vice president faces a continuing struggle to lock up traditional Democratic supporters.
Gore was especially anxious to receive the Kennedy endorsement, since the Bay State Senator is a strong advocate of national health insurance and Gore has spent much of his Granite State campaign criticizing Bradley's health care plan.
But, just how much the endorsement will mean in this state is questionable, since candidates who are seen as bucking the establishment frequently win the primary.
In a room filled with senior citizens and Gore supporters, Kennedy said he had come to New Hampshire "to offer my wholehearted support to a great friend, a great Vice President and the next President of the United States."
Asked if the Democratic race between Gore and Bradley would be over, should Gore win the February 1st New Hampshire Primary, Kennedy responded, "effectively yes," and added, "If the Vice President is successful here, it's an indication of his clear national support."
Kennedy implied if Bradley couldn't win in New England, where might he win, since the region is so close to his New Jersey home.
In response to Bradley's criticism that Gore is being supported by the Democratic establishment, Kennedy listed several accomplishment of the party's establishment, of which he is a ranking member, including raising the minimum wage, patient's rights, progress toward a system of national health care, as well as education and added, he was glad to be a part of that establishment.
In his endorsement statement, Kennedy said of Gore, "No one has stood taller and fought harder for the great issues we can about, than Al Gore."
For his part, Gore wasted no time in responding to Kennedy's accolades. "It's a great honor to receive the endorsement of Ted Kennedy, the greatest champion of education, civil rights and the downtrodden, that we've ever seen in the U.S. Senate."
While Gore has called Bradley "a quitter" for leaving the Senate, he pointedly said of Kennedy, "He never quit. He never walked away. He never stopped fighting."
Gore also used the occasion to repeat his assertion that Bradley has failed to either develop or reveal plans to address many issues and seems to be concerned with only some issues. "The presidency is not an academic exercise. It's not a seminar on the theories of government...it's a constant fight, not just on one or two issues...it's a fight for every unmet need."
Asked to compare the Gore and Bradley health care proposals, Kennedy wasted no words, saying of the Bradley plan, "quite frankly, it's costly."
Without actually mentioning his opponent by name, Gore also used the occasion to insist Bradley has been too friendly with large drug manufacturers, many of which are headquartered in New Jersey. According to Gore, that relationship led Bradley to support legislation favored by the companies, which resulted in keeping lower cost generic drugs off the market and forcing many senior citizens to choose between their prescription drugs and other basic necessities.