After all but clinching the Democratic presidential nomination
last night, Sen. John Kerry is looking forward to jousting with
President Bush for the White House.

But the 2000 election “spoiler” is still lurking in
the political shadows, poised to make a third run at the
presidency.

Much to the chagrin of many prominent Democrats, consumer
advocate Ralph Nader officially announced his decision to run for
president as an independent candidate last week, igniting fears of
a repeat of the 2000 election and the Florida debacle.

Many leading Democrats have accused Nader of costing Al Gore the
2000 presidential election by accumulating votes — many of
which presumably would have gone to Gore — in closely
contested states.

But Nader was adamant that his campaign would stand out from
both the Republican and Democratic platforms.

“There is a compelling necessity for a new strengthening
of the people to reform and recover their public elections from the
grip of private financing — to rescue our public authorities
from the corporate government of big business,” Nader said in
a Feb. 23 speech to the National Press Club.

Nader first rose to prominence in 1965 after releasing his best
selling book “Unsafe at Any Speed,” which chronicled
the dangers of the Chevrolet Corvair. He then used the money he won
in a settlement with the car’s manufacturers General Motors
Corp., whom he sued for invasion of privacy after they launched a
smear campaign against him, to start his consumer activism.

“He is a guy who has spent his whole life and career
dedicated to trying to improve American society for all of its
citizens,” political science Prof. Hanes Walton Jr. said.

Nader has tried to fashion himself as an outsider who would put
people ahead of corporations, something he says neither major party
has been able to do.

He advocates shifting the tax burden to the wealthiest Americans
and to corporations and overhauling the federal budget so it
focuses more on “human needs” and less on
“corporate militarism.”

Nader previously ran for president in 1996 and 2000 as a Green
Party candidate. He received 549,950 votes in 1996 and 2,882,995
votes in 2000.

After nearly four years, the memory of Nader’s impact on
the 2000 Florida presidential vote is still a contentious topic.
Gore lost Florida — and consequently the presidency —
by 537 votes. Nader received 97,488 votes in the state.

“If you took the number of votes (Nader) got in some
states (in 2000), they are greater than the plurality by either the
Democratic or Republican party carried those states,” Walton
said.

“If you add those votes to the loser, the loser would win
those states … The outcome would’ve been Al Gore
winning the election,” he added.

Mark Brewer, executive chair of the Michigan Democratic Party,
said he is disappointed Nader is running.

“It will be a shame if his legacy is helping elect George
Bush twice,” Brewer said, adding that voters who are inclined
to support Nader would find the Democratic nominee appealing.

In 2000, Nader received 2 percent of the Michigan vote behind
Gore with 51 percent and Bush with 47 percent.

“There are people all over the country who wish he
hadn’t done it (before). They remember the 2000 election,
they remember New Hampshire, they remember Florida and the margins
of victories there,” said Democrat National Committee
Chairman Terry McAuliffe, speaking on CBS’s “Face the
Nation” the same day Nader announced his decision.

The Nader campaign could not be reached by phone for comment
yesterday.

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