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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 October, 2004, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Nader could decide election - again
By Kevin Anderson
BBC News, Washington

The presidential election in the US is on a knife edge.

The difference between victory for John Kerry or George Bush will be decided by possibly as little as a few hundred votes in a handful of states.

Ralph Nader speaks to reporters at the Republican convention
Nader has been the subject of intense interest to both sides

And once again, consumer advocate Ralph Nader is running on an anti-corporate, progressive platform.

He wants to challenge the two-party system in the United States and push for universal health care, civil rights, workers' rights and an end to the war in Iraq.

But he has split the progressive vote in the US, with some worrying that he may help hand the election to President Bush.

The Nader factor

A recent Reuters-Zogby national tracking poll shows John Kerry and George Bush polling at 46% each with Ralph Nader at 1.2%.

He is a factor in the key battleground states of New Mexico, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Florida, polling from one to two percent in each.

Ralph Nader sees his campaign as a challenge to the two-party system, campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese said.

He said that because of the two main parties' stranglehold on power, many people cannot vote for a candidate who supports their positions.

Half of voters want the US to withdraw from Iraq, he said.

Two-thirds want universal health care and for workers to earn a wage that they can live on, he said.

"Who should they vote for?" he asked. "Neither major candidate supports any of these positions."

Action has been blocked on these issues by "corporate control of Washington DC by a parasitic elite."

Progressives against Nader

Mr Nader's polling numbers are about half of what they were four years ago, in part because many of his progressive supporters have decided to vote for John Kerry because of their staunch opposition to George Bush.

I'm a fan, but I will not be a voter for Ralph Nader
Bob Brandon
Former "Nader Raider"

Bob Brandon went to work for Ralph Nader right out of law school.

He was one of "Nader's Raiders", the army of idealistic lawyers that took on corporate America and spawned the public-interest consumer movement.

"I'm a fan, but I will not be a voter for Ralph Nader," he said.

And he is not alone.

A group of 75 former "Nader Raiders" and others who worked closely with him are calling on potential Nader voters to reconsider and to work to defeat George Bush.

For Mr Brandon, it comes down to a disagreement over how to "best change things in America at this critical time."

Mr Brandon said that environmentalists, health advocates, women's groups, and civil rights activists "are all organised with one goal in mind", beating Mr Bush.

Progressives believe that they will have a better chance of expanding health care and changing "this reckless foreign policy" under a Kerry administration as opposed to "fighting defence constantly" under four more years of Mr Bush, he said.

Fighting for ballot access

Mr Zeese accused the Democrats of "harassment, intimidation, dirty tricks and gigantic litigation by corporate law firms".

Al Gore
Many Democrats believe Nader cost Al Gore the presidency
In state after state, the Democrats have tried to discourage people from signing petitions to get Mr Nader on the ballot, said Maria Recio, who has been covering the campaign for Knight-Ridder newspapers.

In Oregon, one way to gain ballot access is to have a one-day meeting of 1,000 people or more, who then must be certified by the secretary of state.

"The Democratic Party got wind of it and told Democrats to go and take up space. Then they refused to sign. [Ralph Nader] was 50 voters short," she said.

Mr Brandon countered that Republicans and conservative groups had been cynically donating money to Mr Nader and signing petitions to get him on the ballot in an effort to split the progressive vote.

Despite efforts to block his candidacy, Mr Nader is on the ballot in all the key swing states except Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Mr Nader's supporters do not concede that he played the spoiler in the last election.

But if John Kerry loses by a narrow margin, some Democrats are certain to feel that they lost again because of Ralph Nader.




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