- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

Ralph Nader will attend a $100-a-head fund-raiser arranged by the New Jersey Green Party on Thursday as he gauges both political interest and financial support for another possible presidential candidacy.

Mr. Nader has promised to announce this month whether he will make a White House bid next year and has authorized the Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee to raise funds.

But the 69-year-old consumer advocate has not declared a party affiliation in the event that he does decide to run.

“He is testing the waters and trying to figure out whether to run as a Green or an independent,” said Scott McLarty, a national spokesman for the Green Party. “It leaves things at an interesting point. This fund-raiser may well be a persuasive effort.”

The Nader committee announced this week that it is developing a Web site, www.naderexplore04.org, which will be used to solicit funds and gather volunteers.

“I think he needs to find out if he can raise money before he can confirm,” said Doug Friedline, political director of the Draft Nader 2004 campaign, which has rallied for Mr. Nader since early last year. “And he needs to find out if there is a real grass-roots support out there for him.”

Mr. Friedline, who was campaign manager for Jesse Ventura’s winning 1998 run for Minnesota governor, said he is not as optimistic as he once was about Mr. Nader’s effect on the election next year because of the time factor.

He said Mr. Nader would now have to run as a Green because of ballot-access issues.

The Green Party has ballot access in 21 states for 2004. If Mr. Nader wants to run as an independent, as has been mentioned, his campaign would have to spend valuable time and resources to get on the various state ballots rather than be concerned with message.

“The reason we started this Draft Nader campaign was to get him in gear and give him some time to work on this thing,” Mr. Friedline said. “But he did not respond.”

A USA Today/Gallup poll released in October found that 23 percent of voters want Mr. Nader to run. Two-thirds said they do not want him to enter the race, according to the poll.

Democrats have tried to discourage Mr. Nader, whom they blame for siphoning off votes from Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

As in 2000, Mr. Nader has been cagey about his candidacy. At one point he had planned to announce in September, which later became December. Even now, some Green Party suspect he will wait as late as Jan. 15.

Mr. McLarty said the delays have exasperated some Green Party members, even to the point where they are throwing their support behind other candidates.

“I think many party members wish that he had made his intentions known earlier,” Mr. McLarty said.

At a luncheon with reporters in July, Mr. Nader said, “If I do decide to run, I won’t wait until March,” referring to his March declaration in the 2000 race. “It will be done on the basis of that experience, and we will have more time. There are 100 million voters out there who don’t vote.”

Mr. Nader has received some contributions this year through his still-existing Nader 2000 Primary Committee, including a $1,000 donation in September from the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

The Nader 2004 exploratory committee is led by Theresa Amato, who ran Mr. Nader’s 2000 campaign. Miss Amato did not return several calls this week.

There are six Green Party presidential candidates listed on the party’s Web site (www.gp.org). Mr. Nader’s name is among those, although qualified by a “not declared” in parentheses.

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