Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign is urging Democratic contender John Kerry to condemn a new political group, the National Progress Fund, which is running ads telling Nader supporters that voting for the consumer advocate would help President Bush.
“We would like to see a clear message from Mr. Kerry that he opposes this effort against Ralph Nader,” said Nader campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese. “If we don’t get it, we will feel that he deserves credit for it.”
The fund is being headed by former aides from the failed presidential campaigns and offices of Wesley Clark and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, as well as a former aide from the office of Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, another Democratic presidential contender from 2004.
On the fund’s Web site, www.TheNaderFactor.com, the group says Mr. Nader’s candidacy in 2000 actually hurt his liberal agenda by helping elect Mr. Bush.
And it crystallizes the Democratic fear in two sentences: “Poll after poll after poll show one thing: Ralph Nader is once again becoming a deciding factor. It is time for us to stand together in defense of the issues we care about most.”
The site also urges people to “join a community of other Nader supporters and progressive Democrats uniting to fight the radical right-wing agenda.”
The group will begin this week airing a television ad in Wisconsin and New Mexico featuring a sheepish Nader 2000 voter.
“Four years ago, I supported Ralph Nader because he stood for the issues I believe in. I feel I made a mistake,” Maryland schoolteacher Bob Schick says in the 30-second spot. “By supporting Ralph Nader, I actually helped George Bush.”
Mr. Nader yesterday said on ABC’s “This Week” that his foes on the left should be trying to earn the respect of the “8 million” Democratic voters who cast ballots for President Bush in 2000.
“For every Bob Schick, there are nine times more Democrats who could have started an ad this way,” Mr. Nader said. “‘Hi, I’m a Democrat. And in the year 2000, I supported George W. Bush because I thought he was not going to engage in nation-building, because I thought he was a compassionate conservative.’
“Why don’t the Democrats go after the 8 million Democrats who voted for George Bush in 2000?” Mr. Nader added. “Thirty-five percent of union members voted for George Bush in 2000.”
Instead, Mr. Nader said, Democrats are going after him and trying “to block an effort that reminds them of their past as a party … wants to get more voters out, more voters engaged, more young people mobilized so they can take the leadership in an informed and dynamic way.”
Mr. Kerry’s campaign did not return calls.
The two presidential candidates met last week after months of negotiation over the details of such a meeting. Mr. Zeese, the Nader campaign spokesman, questioned the timing of the announcement of the new anti-Nader group.
“I think it is interesting that it was timed with our meeting,” Mr. Zeese said.
Democratic angst over Mr. Nader’s run has been fueled by Mr. Nader’s showing in the polls, particularly in a handful of close states.
For example, a Quinnipiac poll last week showed Mr. Nader with 5 percent support in New Jersey, while Mr. Kerry leads Mr. Bush by 46 percent to 43 percent, a statistically insignificant gap given the poll’s three percentage-point margin of error. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore decisively defeated Mr. Bush in New Jersey, winning the state by 16 points.
In Texas, where Mr. Nader sued the state over its policies regarding ballot access for independent candidates, a group called StopNader.com is challenging Mr. Nader’s challenge.
“There are valid and specific rules on ballot access that apply to all candidates in Texas,” Bob Gammage, a former congressman and Texas Supreme Court Justice, said in a statement.
Mr. Gammage, a supporter of Mr. Clark in the 2004 primaries, added that Mr. Nader’s 2000 campaign “put Bush in the White House. We don’t want that to happen again. StopNader.com will do whatever is necessary to limit his influence in this election.”