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Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan plans this week to endorse former Sen. Bill Bradley's challenge to Vice President Gore's bid for the Democratic nomination for president, Moynihan associates said Tuesday.

Widely rumored for weeks, Moynihan's backing of Bradley will nevertheless deliver another blow to Gore's struggling campaign and seriously complicate the Senate campaign of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A long-time political associate of Moynihan's, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the venerable New Yorker wants to make the announcement in Manhattan on Thursday or Friday, depending on the Senate's work schedule.

Moynihan's backing of Bradley, the associate said, is based more on the affinity that developed between the two men when they served together on the Senate Finance and Public Works committees than any possible antagonism toward the vice president.

Moynihan has a history of bucking national trends with his endorsements. In 1988, he strongly encouraged then Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado to make a bid. Four years later, Moynihan supported Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey against a formidable field that included Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts.

Neither Hart nor Kerrey at the time represented the threat to the front-runners that Bradley does to the vice president.

Although Gore is supported by the White House and the national Democratic organization, Bradley has made major financial and political inroads on the Gore campaign in recent weeks.

The former New York Knicks basketball star and Rhodes scholar has nearly pulled even with Gore among New York Democrats, and lags behind the vice president by only a half dozen percentage points in New Jersey and New Hampshire, according to voter surveys.

The first lady, who has not yet formally announced, and Gore are already competing for funds and free media in the New York-New Jersey market, and relations between the two camps are tenuous. Moynihan has unconditionally endorsed Clinton.

When Moynihan denies Gore this backing, relations between Gore and the first lady are bound to be sorely aggravated.

Anticipating Moynihan's move, the Gore campaign announced the endorsements of nine members of the New York congressional delegation.

"Al Gore's commitment to working families and the things they care about will make a difference in New York," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

Gore was in Upper Brookville, L.I., Tuesday raising $150,000 for his campaign.

In a speech Gore said his 86-year-old mother grew up poor "at a time when poor girls were not supposed to dream." She put herself through law school working nights as waitress, he recalled.

"In honor of my mother, I make this pledge: The progress we've made for women's rights in this century is only the foundation for what we're going to make in the 21st," he said.

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