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Nader says he can't sit this one out

``Ten years of losses,'' Nader said of the Democratic Party. ``They have no modesty about bringing the country 10 years of losses. They have become very good at bringing the country very bad Republicans.''
Register-Guard
February 23, 2004

Nader says he can't sit this one out

By Adam Nagourney
and Jim Rutenberg
The New York Times

Brushing aside urgent appeals from his own friends and Democratic leaders, Ralph Nader announced on Sunday that he would run again for president this year, sending shudders through the camps of Democratic presidential candidates just as they had grown hopeful about unseating President Bush.

Nader, in an interview on Sunday, said he would seek to get his name as an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states. He rejected the notion that he was the spoiler who helped Bush win in 2000 and would do the same in 2004.

Nader, who rose to national prominence as a consumer advocate, described his candidacy as an indictment of the weaknesses of the Democratic Party, asserting that it had failed to champion liberal positions and offer a strong alternative to Republicans.

``The Democrats have never had a string of losses like that that I can remember, and against the extreme wing of the Republican Party,'' he said. ``Their risks of losing to Bush, assuming he doesn't destruct, is no greater because of this candidacy.''

``Ten years of losses,'' Nader said of the Democratic Party. ``They have no modesty about bringing the country 10 years of losses. They have become very good at bringing the country very bad Republicans.''

Since Bush's election, Nader has become an ignominious figure among Democrats who argued that his showing in at least two states - Florida and New Hampshire - undermined Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. With the country so divided, Democrats have long feared the prospect of a Nader candidacy in 2004, just as Republicans have welcomed it as a pivotal factor in Bush's re-election effort.

``I think that Ralph Nader is proving that the only master that he serves is his enormous ego,'' said Scott Maddox, the chairman of the Democratic Party in Florida, where in 2000 Nader received 97,488 votes, and where Bush defeated Gore by 537 votes to seal the presidential election. ``I have nothing nice to say about him: 2000 should have proved to him that he's going to be nothing but a spoiler.''

A senior aide to Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina said Sunday that a Nader candidacy could prove a threat to Democrats should he succeed in getting on the ballot in six pivotal states, including Florida.

But the political landscape is strikingly different this year, and several Democrats said on Sunday said it was hardly certain that a Nader candidacy would have the same effect that it did in the last election.

For one thing, Nader is no longer running as the candidate of the Green Party, which means he is faced with the daunting - though not impossible - task of getting on 50 state ballots as an independent candidate. By Nader's own assessment, that would entail collecting about 1.5 million signatures on nominating petitions in all states. In addition, he would have to battle through a thicket of court challenges that Democrats said they would wage to keep him off the ballots.

Jim Edmondson of Eugene, chairman of the Democratic Party in Oregon, where Gore beat Bush by less than half a percentage point and Nader drew more than 5 percent in 2000, said party officials are acutely aware that many supporters of former presidential candidate Howard Dean may find Nader's anti-corporate-interest message appealing. So Edmondson said the party has organized a series of meet-ups modeled on Dean's campaign mobilization efforts to target Dean supporters and keep them in the party.

Nader said he did not plan to hire people to collect signatures, which would cost at least $1 a name. As a measure of even what Nader acknowledged was a difficult task, his first deadline is less than three months away, May 13, in Texas, when he will be required to submit roughly 64,000 valid signatures to get on that ballot.

``I think he will be able to get on a significant number of states' ballots, but I don't know how many that is,'' said Nathaniel Persily, a professor of law and political science at the University of Pennsylvania. ``From the standpoint of the Democrats, the only question is going to be whether he gets on the ballot in the battleground states. He certainly has the capacity to do a similar amount of damage to the Democratic Party as he did last time.''

Several Democrats said that what polls have found to be an overwhelming sentiment among Democrats - that the nominee have the ability to unseat Bush - would prove a big obstacle to Nader. It also means, Democrats said, that they could bring lawsuits to knock Nader off state ballots without risking the kind of backlash that typically greets such litigation.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, a Democratic presidential candidate this year, provided Nader a platform at his headquarters in Harlem in 2000. But Sharpton said Sunday that he would campaign across the nation urging Democrats to reject Nader.

``The only reason he's running is either he's an egomaniac or as a Bush contract,'' Sharpton said. ``What's the point? This is not 2000 when progressives were locked out. I'm going on a national crusade to stop Nader. This is only going to help Bush.''

Nader made his announcement in a series of interviews on Sunday.

The two leading contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Edwards, said they thought that they could appeal to enough independents and Democrats to negate the Nader impact.

Kerry said he did not accept Nader's assertion that there was little difference between the parties.

``That's what he said with respect to Bush and Gore, and I think it was pretty clear to most Americans that the difference was night and day,'' Kerry said in a television interview in Atlanta. ``I intend to speak to all Americans. If people want to beat George Bush badly, and that's what's at stake here, they'll see that I'm speaking to concerns that Ralph Nader and other people have.''

Edwards said a Nader candidacy would ``not impact my campaign,'' adding: ``It's important for the Democrats to have somebody at the top of the ticket who will be appealing to some of the voters that Ralph Nader might attract.''

Nader said he was startled by the strong opposition his potential campaign had stirred on the left, noting in particular criticism in The Nation magazine.


The Hartford Courant contributed to this report
Future 23.Feb.2004 17:35

shock

He's ahead of his time. Hopefully, someday people will realize that.

Way to go Ralph 23.Feb.2004 18:31

Nader Supporter

We need somebody else in this campaign besides weak kneed Democrats.

Ego 23.Feb.2004 18:44

Slim

Nader is an egomaniac and more forests and wildlife species will die because of him. What a monster.

Slim = EGO 23.Feb.2004 19:23

oge

"Nader is an egomaniac and more forests and wildlife species will die because of him. What a monster."

--what are you talking about?

Nader and his offshoot organizations have done more to protect forests and wildlife than you ever will in 100,000 of your pathetic little lifetimes.

YOU'RE the egomaniac for posting such a nonsensical "oh look at me I'm the virtuous activist who's better than satanic Ralph" comment here -

and to top it off you provide zero explanation or evidence for your baseless assertion.

'Slim', quit being a poseur "environmentalist" on PDX IMC and go join the Sierra Club and Democratic Party.

Egomaniac 23.Feb.2004 20:40

George Bender

Nader is an egomaniac because he dares to threaten the Democrats and say he's right and they're wrong?

He is right.

They are wrong.