- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Democrats who cringed publicly upon Ralph Nader’s entry into the presidential race are finding merit to their fears, as the independent candidate is cutting a wide swath into the party’s base.

A CBS-New York Times poll released yesterday had President Bush pulling ahead of Sen. John Kerry by three percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, a statistical dead heat. But when Mr. Nader was added to the mix, Mr. Bush’s lead bounced to eight points.

The concern Democrats are feeling now will soon be shared by Republicans when Mr. Nader begins tapping the president’s base in a noticeable way, a Nader campaign spokesman said yesterday.

“There are a lot of potential factions that will not support him this time, and Nader will be taking votes from both parties,” spokesman Kevin Zeese said.

“The Reform Party supported Bush in 2000 and they had been urging Ralph to run before he announced. We suspect that as the race progresses, we will get more support from people who supported Bush but are now unhappy with jobs going overseas and corporate welfare that undermines entrepreneurs.”

Democrats have blamed Mr. Nader’s 2000 presidential bid for Al Gore’s loss — a notion that Mr. Nader has dismissed continuously — and immediately began calling Mr. Nader an egotist when he announced his candidacy Feb. 22.

“He clearly takes voters from John Kerry,” said Steve Grossman, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and chairman of Howard Dean’s presidential bid. “But these polls dramatically overstate Ralph Nader’s impact on this race.

“These polls to some extent are about name recognition. … Ralph Nader plays into the fear of the future, but when voters see that a Nader vote could make Kerry come up short, I think we will see that polling number under 2 percent, and perhaps even lower than that.”

According to the CBS-New York Times poll conducted this month, Mr. Bush leads Mr. Kerry of Massachusetts 46 percent to 43 percent. With Mr. Nader in the race, the president leads Mr. Kerry 46 percent to 38 percent, with 7 percent of those polled going with Mr. Nader.

Yesterday’s poll is a continuation of a pattern of Mr. Nader dipping into the well of votes Mr. Kerry is expected to secure.

A Zogby poll released last week of Arab voters in four states showed Mr. Kerry ahead of Mr. Bush 54 percent to 30 percent, but factoring in Mr. Nader, who is Lebanese-American, the 24 percentage-point lead drops to 13 percentage points.

“He is their left flank,” said pollster John Zogby, referring to the Democrats’ realized fears of a Nader vote siphon. “These results show that conventional wisdom was wrong, that he was not marginalized and is apparently still Ralph Nader with all capital letters and he still has some support out there.

“The question may be how many states he can get ballot access in,” Mr. Zogby added.

Indeed, the biggest obstacle for Mr. Nader continues to be ballot access. The 2000 Green Party candidate is running independently, making him reliant on a cadre of volunteers across the nation — 7,000 so far, according to the campaign — to collect thousands of signatures needed to secure spots on ballots in various states.

In Texas, the signature collection began last week, and “people from all across the political spectrum are helping us,” said Karen Elinich, who heads the Dallas-area effort to get Mr. Nader on the ballot. It is one of the most onerous states in the nation when it comes to ballot access for independents, requiring 65,000 signatures gathered in a 60-day period.

Other states are simpler, calling for less than 5,000 signatures.

“The response has been great, from all kinds of people,” Miss Elinich said. She was the north Texas coordinator for Mr. Nader’s 2000 run when he was the Green Party candidate, and noted that efforts in Texas are being largely staffed by Green Party members.

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