- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 26, 2000

Ralph Nader said yesterday he is under increasing pressure from Democrats and labor leaders who fear his presidential bid could deny the White House to Vice President Al Gore.

"More and more prominent people," including a high-ranking labor leader, have contacted the Green Party presidential candidate to urge him to throw his support behind the Democratic nominee, Mr. Nader said yesterday.

But the famed activist, undaunted by polls that show he could tip states such as Oregon, Washington and Michigan into the Republican column, yesterday renewed his attacks on the vice president, issuing a scathing criticism of Mr. Gore's environmental record.

He also said he doesn't care whether he plays the spoiler.

"If it made any difference to me whether Gore is elected or not, I wouldn't be running. Why would I even bother?" Mr. Nader said. "Most people who run for president run to take as many votes as possible from all the other candidates. Al Gore has to earn his votes, just like all of us. He's not entitled to any of them."

This week, Mr. Gore has been campaigning in states where Nader supporters could play a decisive role.

In an Oregon poll released yesterday by the American Research Group, Mr. Nader received 10 percent compared with Mr. Bush's 45 percent and Mr. Gore's 41 percent.

Even California, considered a Democratic fortress, has been thrown into doubt because of Mr. Nader's 5 percent poll numbers there. The tightening race prompted a Nader supporter to pull a full-page ad in three of California's biggest newspapers.

But a senior aide to Mr. Gore said the campaign was not aware that Democrats were leaning on Mr. Nader.

"I don't know anybody who's doing it," the aide said yesterday after a rally in Jackson, Tenn. "Democrats are a lot of people. There could be local Democrats or others."

Nevertheless, the Gore campaign has lined up liberal heavyweights like Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson to rally voters who might otherwise vote for Mr. Nader. A major interest group aligned with the Democrats is also going to bat for the vice president, and specifically warning against a vote for Mr. Nader.

The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League said yesterday that it plans to air a new television advertisement in three markets that are Nader strongholds Portland, Ore., Minneapolis, and Madison, Wis. The ads argue that voting for Mr. Nader would help elect Texas Gov. George W. Bush, who the group says would nominate anti-abortion Supreme Court justices.

"A woman's constitutional right to choose is lost if George W. Bush is elected," said the group's president, Kate Michelman. "We have to make that point a little more directly and strongly in these key states where Gore should be winning, and I think can win, once people make all the considerations."

Stepping up the pressure on Mr. Nader, Rep. John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat, released a letter to Mr. Nader yesterday that cited a host of reasons why progressives should vote Democratic and not Green.

"Those who vote for Nader could potentially make the difference between the progressive movement pushing the social justice agenda forward under a sympathetic Gore administration, or running up against the brick wall of any new Republican administration," Mr. Conyers said. "Why take this risk by voting for Nader?"

But Mr. Nader brushed off Mr. Conyers' arguments, saying that his run for the presidency would bring voters to the polls who would support Democratic House candidates, and propel Mr. Conyers, currently the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, into the chair.

Mr. Nader also said that House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who has spearheaded efforts to retake the House, endorsed this electoral logic when they spoke earlier this year.

Mr. Gephardt's spokeswoman, Lara Nichols, said the Nader candidacy "does not change our view that we want to see Al Gore elected president."

The pressure from Mr. Conyers comes on the heels of a letter from former associates of Mr. Nader known as "Nader's Raiders for Gore" who asked him to throw his support behind the vice president to head off a victory by Mr. Bush. Mr. Nader dismissed them as "well-intentioned" but "frightened liberals."

Greg MacArthur, a New York businessman and filmmaker, announced a newspaper advertising push on behalf of Mr. Nader in states where a victory by either Mr. Gore or Mr. Bush is considered inevitable, such as New York and Texas. Calling his group Citizens for Strategic Voting, Mr. MacArthur is placing ads to influence very liberal urban voters.

"The votes that can be gotten for Nader are more likely to come from states where there's no real competition, and I simply want to make that point," he said.

Mr. MacArthur this week pulled ads in California, where new polls have shown that the once solidly Democratic state could be up for grabs on Nov. 7. But he vigorously denied the widespread impression that some Nader supporters were getting cold feet and were reluctant to siphon votes away from Mr. Gore in battleground states.

"To people in swing states: Vote for Nader," he said.

• Andrew Cain contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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