(Redfield, IA) Bill Bradley slumped forward in his chair, positioned in front of a bulletin board plastered with a flyer touting Redfield’s Farmers Market and a list of 20 “Heart-healthy snacks” — items for patients to read while waiting for medical attention in the small-town medical clinic where Bradley sits.

“How do you make up for those who are uninsured?” Bradley asks workers at the clinic, which has about 5,000 patients.

“It doesn’t taste good, but we eat it,” replied Libby Coyte, a physician’s assistant who serves as the clinic’s office manager.

About 15 percent of the small town clinic’s 5,000 patients do not have health insurance. Thirty percent are covered by private insurance, while 55 percent are on government-run Medicare or Medicaid.

Bradley’s staff has picked this clinic as the backdrop for the democratic presidential candidate’s first stop in Iowa since he announced a 65 billion-dollar plan to provide health care coverage to uninsured Americans.

Moments later, Bradley is a few blocks away, talking to a larger group of Redfield residents who’ve gathered in the town’s American Legion Hall for the weekly Saturday morning breakfast feed of pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, toast and coffee, all for $4.

“It’s really great to see those men back in the kitchen,” Bradley said as he took the microphone, to applause and a few catcalls from women in the crowd of about 65.

With an American flag at his back and a white “in loving memory” cross to his right, Bradley launched into a 15 minute speech, recalling his boyhood days in Missouri, his views on agriculture policy and his ideas for providing health care coverage to all Americans.

“I must say I have an interest in Bill Bradley and I enjoyed his comments,” said Julius Little, chairman of the Dallas County Board of Supervisors — and a Republican. “Rural health care in Iowa is in a kind of a crisis.”

Democrat Joyce Schulte of Aubudon put on her Bill Bradley T-shirt and drove to Redfield to see Bradley speak.

“I’ve listened to both Bradley and Gore for quite awhile, and I hear more of what I would call solidness or realism (from) Bradley,” Schulte said.

Polls show Bradley’s popularity surging in states like New Hampshire and New York, to the point where the former New Jersey Senator is running neck-in-neck with Vice President Al Gore.

“People say we have momentum,” Bradley told reporters. “I say we just have a little traction. You want momentum in January.”

January 31, 2000 is the tentative date of the Iowa Caucuses, a campaign kick-off event in the race for the Democrat party’s presidential nomination.

In the past quarter, Bradley raised more campaign cash than did Gore, “because we’ve been reaching new people. We’re not going to people who’ve always contributed.”

However, Bradley was quick to claim the role of underdog to Gore.

“If you have the President of the United States right by your side willing to help you every step of the way, you have entrenched power in the D.N.C. (Democratic National Committee), you arrive on Air Force II (the Vice President’s plane), and you’re still ahead nationally, to me that’s the favorite,” Bradley told reporters.