Sunday, February 24, 2008

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Barack Obama yesterday took a swipe at Ralph Nader, who is expected to announce in the morning he is seeking an independent presidential bid.

The Washington Times asked Mr. Obama in a press conference if he thinks Mr. Nader played the role of a spoiler in 2000 and to weigh in on a possible third Nader White House run.

“Anybody has the right to run for president if they file sufficient papers,” Mr. Obama responded. “The job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.”

Mr. Nader won 2.7 percent of the national vote as the Green Party candidate in 2000, and is widely blamed in Democratic circles for costing Al Gore a victory in Florida’s razor-close race and thus the presidency. But he won just 0.3 percent as an independent in 2004 when he appeared on the ballot in only 34 states.

Mr. Obama said Mr. Nader had called him and “reached out to my campaign.”

Mr. Nader has reserved harsh words for both Mr. Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in recent weeks, and is expected to announce he will run again in an appearance today on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the same forum where he announced his 2004 effort.

Asked about Mr. Nader’s criticism, Mr. Obama paused, then added:

“Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you’re not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work.”

He went on to praise the longtime consumer advocate as a “singular figure” in America who “has done as much as just about anybody on behalf of consumers.”

“I don’t mean to diminish him,” he said. “I do think there is a sense now that if somebody is not hewing to the Ralph Nader agenda, then you must be lacking in some way.”

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