Washington (CNSNews.com) - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader plans to campaign heavily in 10 states over the next two weeks, including five battleground states that Democrat Al Gore narrowly won in 2000 and where Sen. John Kerry must prevail this year.
At a press conference Monday, Nader said his strategy is to take away votes from both Kerry and President Bush on Nov. 2. But by venturing to Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Nader is threatening Kerry's hold on states that Gore won four years ago.
"Our campaign is not designed to get either votes for Bush or Kerry, it's designed to take away votes from all parties," Nader said. "But in the process, a major party like the Democratic Party should wake up and realize there's a whole menu of positions they haven't taken that they can take."
Nader said he saw little evidence that Kerry was heeding his advice to shift to a populist message in the campaign's closing weeks. Nader also vowed to plunge ahead with his campaign despite efforts to keep him off the ballot in some states, including the battleground of Ohio.
Democrats this year "have spent literally millions of dollars trying to keep us off the ballot in the so-called close states," Nader said. "The former law firm of Ken Starr, Kirkland & Ellis, has been hired in Ohio, with 50 lawyers swarming over that state to keep us off the ballot under the most arcane, phony technicalities imaginable."
Considered by Democrats to be the spoiler in the 2000 race for taking away votes from Gore, Nader said Monday that the opposite is true. He claimed more people actually turned out to vote for Gore as a result of him and his running mate, Winona LaDuke.
"Ten times more Democrats registered in Florida deserted Gore for Bush than deserted Gore for Nader-LaDuke," he said. "If it wasn't for the Nader-LaDuke campaign, Gore would have got fewer votes."
In 2000, Nader received 2,882,955 votes or 2.74 percent of the popular vote in the United States. But in swing states, including Florida, which was decided by 537 votes, Nader received more votes (97,488) than the margin of defeat for Gore. He is on the ballot in Florida again this year.
Nader continues to be a factor in 2004 despite shunning the Green Party, which endorsed him four years ago. The latest polls put his support near 2 percent nationally.
Besides heading to Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Nader and his running mate, Peter Camejo, will also spend time in Alabama, Connecticut, Louisiana, New Jersey and New York. Only Louisiana and New Jersey are considered marginally competitive.
Of the five battleground states on Nader's radar, all are leaning to Kerry, according to an average of the latest polling results compiled by Real Clear Politics. But the margin in each state remains small.
The Real Clear Politics average puts Kerry ahead by 0.7 percentage points in both Iowa and Wisconsin. Kerry's lead stands at 1.7 percentage points in Pennsylvania and 3.5 points in Minnesota, according to the average. And in Michigan, where Kerry has his biggest lead of the five states, it stands at 6 percentage points.
In addition to unveiling his campaign themes for the final two weeks, Nader also used the occasion to dispel what he calls "myths" about Republican support for him.
Before the press conference began, Nader's aides distributed a press release citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics showing Kerry's campaign had received nearly $10.7 million in Republican contributions compared to $111,700 given to Nader.
"The Kerry campaign has received 100 times more Republican donors than our campaign has received," Nader said. "The anti-Nader Democratic Party has spread their big lie to try to discredit our campaign and mute our anti-war and progressive message."
Neither the Kerry campaign nor the Democratic National Committee responded to messages left Monday by CNSNews.com.
The wide-ranging press briefing attracted media outlets from around the globe. While most questions focused on Nader's potential to be a spoiler for Kerry, the longtime consumer advocate also spent time addressing the minimum wage, the potential for a military draft and his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
When asked what he would do on Nov. 3, the day after the election, Nader said he hadn't given it much thought. But he said his ultimate goal is to break up the two-party system in the United States.
As for the vote on Nov. 2, Nader said he wasn't too optimistic about the Democrats' chances given their failure to adopt a populist message and coherent strategy on Iraq.
"This is a party that has been losing and losing and losing for the last 10 years at the local, state and national level to the worst of the Republicans, including some of the worst Republicans that ever slithered into Congress or the White House," Nader said. "All they have is a formula for loss. What we can do in terms of collateral contribution is to jolt them, shame them and prod them."
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