- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2004

Ralph Nader said yesterday he will run for president again this year, to the consternation of Democrats who for months have tried to discourage a Nader candidacy.

Mr. Nader, whom many Democrats blame for draining crucial votes from Al Gore in 2000, made his announcement on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” telling moderator Tim Russert that he would get into the race to “challenge this two-party duopoly,” a term Mr. Nader coined years ago and uses frequently.

“Basically, it’s a question of both parties flunking,” Mr. Nader said. “There’s too much power and wealth in too few hands. They’ve taken over Washington. And it’s time to change the equation and bring millions of American people into the political arena.”

Most of his foes are part of the “liberal intelligentsia,” Mr. Nader said, adding, “There are liberal Republicans who see their party taken away from them. They may be looking for an independent candidacy. There are a hundred million nonvoters that no one has figured out how to bring back into the electoral system, which I want to try to do.

“So I think the liberal intelligentsia has got to ask itself a tough question. … For 25 years, they have let their party run away from them.”

Mr. Nader’s fourth bid for the presidency was preceded and greeted by howls of protest from both the mainstream and the periphery of the left. A Fox News poll released yesterday showed him winning 4 percent of the vote, to 43 percent for President Bush and 42 percent for Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic front-runner.

Mr. Nader, who turns 70 on Friday, has been urged to stay out of the race this year by most Democratic Party heavyweights. They include Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who appeared Friday on both CNN and Fox News, beseeching Democrats to contact Mr. Nader and urge him not to run.

“I would hate to see part of his legacy be that he got us eight years of George Bush,” Mr. McAuliffe, said yesterday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “It is very unfortunate that Ralph has decided to run. There are people all over the country wishing that he hadn’t done it. I have had Green Party members coming into the party, saying they want to help us.”

In 1996, Mr. Nader was on the ballot in 20 states as the Green Party candidate, winning 685,128 votes. In 2000, he appeared on the ballot in 44 states, winning 2,882,955 votes, or 2.7 percent, and falling short of the required 5 percent needed to qualify for federal matching funds. During a brief 1992 campaign, he collected nearly 6,300 write-in votes in the New Hampshire primary and pulled sizable crowds.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a member of the Democratic Party hierarchy, told “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Nader’s fourth run was motivated by “ego” and “vanity.”

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said the party cannot allow Mr. Nader’s candidacy to be a “distraction.”

“We have done a great job of re-engaging voters,” Miss Brazile said. “The last thing we need is for Nader to appear in 2004. Democrats have to keep their eye on the ball.”

Post-election polls in 2000 show Mr. Nader attracted nearly 50 percent of his votes from Democrats, and another 30 percent from voters who would not have cast ballots otherwise.

In that campaign, Mr. Nader assailed Mr. Gore, calling him a “chronic political coward” and the “ultimate panderer.”

Mr. Nader yesterday said he will run as an independent this time, not on the Green Party ticket. This will be difficult in many states, he said, without explaining why he decided to go that route.

“There’s a tremendous bias in state laws against third parties and independent candidates bred by the two major parties who passed these laws,” Mr. Nader said. “They don’t like competition. So it’s like climbing a cliff with a slippery rope.”

Republicans maintained a gloat-free zone yesterday, with Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie saying that Mr. Bush would be re-elected no matter who runs.

Added Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former RNC chairman: “It will make less difference than the Democrats fear, but I know they’re very nervous about it.”

Certainly, not everyone in the environmental movement was happy about another Nader candidacy.

Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, called it “monumentally irresponsible.”

“In the last three years, the Bush administration has mounted arguably the greatest assault on our conservation laws ever seen,” Mr. Schlickeisen said. “Mr. Nader’s entry into the presidential race only increases the likelihood that assault will continue for a second term.”

Precious campaign funds will have to be used to get Mr. Nader on the ballot as an independent. But an effort to make him the Green Party candidate again sprang up almost as soon as Mr. Nader made his announcement.

“There are already some candidates in the party who will cede their delegates at the national party convention in June,” Green Party spokesman Scott McLarty said.

Mr. McLarty noted that Mr. Nader had announced in December that he would not run on the Green ticket, which alienated some in the party. Others, though, are ready to bring him back.

“The ultimate answer is his acceptance of the Green Party nomination at our convention, if he gets it,” Mr. McLarty said.

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