- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader took to the airwaves for the first time yesterday, but instead of targeting his big-party rivals, he decided to attack the political system itself.

"Veal tenderloin for fund-raiser, $1,000 a plate; campaign ads filled with half-truths, $10 million; promises to special interest groups, over $10 billion," the ad says in a direct parody of a recent MasterCard ad campaign. "Finding out the truth? Priceless."

"There are some things money can't buy," the ad says. "Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last."

The ad is airing in major cities throughout the country, although the campaign refuses to say exactly where it will run or how much it will cost. They will say only that the ads will air in relation to sports events.

"I've got two competitors in this race that are each spending at least $40 million," campaign media consultant Bill Hillsman said at a Washington event discussing the ads yesterday. "Our role in this is to try to be effective with the dollars that we have, which is probably going to be less than $5 million."

Mr. Nader's main goal at this point, campaign staffers said, is to be included in the presidential debates set for October. The national commission that hosts the debates has said any candidate with an average of 15 percent in a series of key polls can be included on the stage with Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore.

Mr. Nader, meanwhile, is polling only in single digits. A poll released over the weekend by NBC found him with about 6 percent support in a race including Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, who drew only 1 percent.

In the same poll, Mr. Bush led Mr. Gore 47 percent to 36 percent.

"Ralph Nader should have the opportunity to debate come October 3, and there is no reason why folks have to be limited to the cul-de-sac of the Commission on Presidential Debates," Campaign Manager Teresa Amato said.

The commission has long said the 15 percent level is reasonable, particularly since candidates have other options to get their message out to build support before October, such as paid ads and debates sponsored by other organizations.

Mrs. Amato said the campaign has discussed with Mr. Buchanan the possibility of jointly challenging the commission policy in court, although they have not agreed to cooperate.

"With a four-way debate, anything can happen, and the American public will have a lot more interesting choices in front of them come November," she said.

Mr. Nader has run a stronger-than-expected campaign for president, sounding traditional liberal themes such as stronger environmental regulation and stiffer taxation of the wealthy. Political observers of both major parties say he could pose a threat to Mr. Gore, particularly in liberal strongholds such as California.

"It's taking more Democrat votes than Republican votes he could actually help Governor Bush get elected," Sen. John McCain said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

But, he warned, Republicans can't count on Mr. Nader to swing the election.

"History shows us that third-party candidates usually go down in the polls as they get closer to the election, because people want to cast a vote that will determine one of the two major party candidates' victory," he said.

Mr. Nader, also speaking on "Meet the Press," denied that he is supported solely by disaffected liberal Democrats.

"I think I'm drawing votes from a lot of areas," Mr. Nader said. "I'm drawing votes from the [Ross] Perot voters and nonvoters, as well as Democratic voters."

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