Nader, Democratic thorn, digs in
Nader is now on 34 state ballots.
Friday, October 15, 2004
THE NEW YORK TIMES
WASHINGTON -- With less than three weeks before the election, Ralph Nader is emerging as just the kind of threat that Democrats feared, with the potential to tip the balance in up to nine states where President Bush and Sen. John Kerry are running neck and neck.
Despite a concerted effort by Democrats to derail his independent presidential candidacy, as well as being struck off the Pennsylvania ballot on Wednesday, the consumer advocate is on the ballots in nearly three dozen states. Polls show that he could influence the outcome in nine of them by drawing support from Kerry: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Wisconsin.
Moreover, six of these states -- Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and New Mexico -- were among the top 20 where Nader drew his strongest support in 2000. If the vote for Bush and Kerry is as evenly divided as the polls suggest, the electoral votes in any one of these states could determine who becomes president.
Nader reiterated this week that he had no intention of getting out of the race. He said no one from the Kerry campaign or the Democratic National Committee was pressing him behind the scenes to get out, and he said he thought Kerry would not make a good president anyway.
"He's not his own man," Nader said in a telephone interview Tuesday from California. "Because he takes the liberals for granted, he's allowing Bush to pull him in his direction. It doesn't show much for his character."
That is a change in Nader's tune from May, when he met Kerry at his campaign headquarters and afterward praised him as "very presidential." Kerry did not ask him to withdraw then, but now the party is in a full-throated plea, with its chairman, Terry McAuliffe, saying yesterday that Nader should "end the charade" of a campaign being kept afloat by "corporate backers."
While Nader's support is negligible in much of the country, and scant in some of these nine states, even a tiny Nader vote could make a difference, as it did in Florida and New Hampshire in 2000.
Democrats belittle Nader's efforts, portraying his campaign as a rag-tag version of its former self, with Nader's appearances limited to easy-to-book venues such as college campuses. But they acknowledge that he could make a difference, and even Kerry has adjusted his stump speech in part to try to appeal to potential Nader voters, who tend to loathe corporate America and fiercely oppose the war in Iraq.
Kerry now casts Bush as a tool of rich and powerful "special interests" and he has sharpened his critique of Bush's handling of Iraq.
Several Democratic and left-leaning groups sprang up this year to try to keep Nader off the ballot in the swing states, fearing that he could siphon votes from Kerry as he did from Al Gore in 2000.
In Florida that year, Nader won just 1.6 percent of the vote. But that accounted for 97,488 votes, and Bush beat Gore there by just 537 votes.
In 2000, Nader won 2.7 percent of the vote nationally. Pollsters say that this year, Nader's national support has dwindled from a peak of 5 percent in May to about 1.5 percent now, but in some states it is more.
This year in Iowa, for example, the average of the latest polls shows Kerry with 47.5 percent of the vote, Bush with 46.6 and Nader with 4 percent.
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