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Bid to push Nader out

The anybody-but-Bush crowd thrusts; the candidate parries.

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"When they signal to the Democrats and to John Kerry that they are part of the anybody but Bush crowd, they aren't making any demands on the Democrats," he said. "Therefore if Kerry wins, he's not accountable to them on any progressive issues."

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Nader, who ran as the Green Party candidate in 2000, is running as an independent this year, and has launched signature campaigns across the country to gain access to state ballots. In addition, the Reform Party has offered him a spot as its candidate in the seven states where the party has qualified to be on the ballot.

And Nader has told the Green Party, which holds its convention on June 26, that he would accept their endorsement if they don't nominate a candidate, which would mean ballot access to the 22 states where the Greens have qualified. His choice of longtime party activist Peter Camejo as his vice presidential pick could well bolster his support from the Greens.

As for drawing votes from Democrats, Nader and his staff argue it's far more likely that he will draw votes from disgruntled Republicans. A 2000 CNN exit poll said 25 percent of Nader's voters came from the GOP.

"A lot of conservatives are upset with Bush on a lot of issues," including corporate bailouts and trade agreements that have led to the loss of American jobs, says campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese. "Obviously, he won't appeal to the Christian right, but there are Northeast liberal Republicans, McCain Republicans, Libertarian Republicans, environmental Republicans" who could be attracted to Nader because of his stand on issues that appeal to them, says Mr. Zeese.

Current polls show Nader drawing 4 to 6 percent of the vote - the same percentages he was drawing at this point in the 2000 race. Several of those polls show that Nader definitely plays a factor in the race; when he is included in polls, he shifts the percentage of support away from both Kerry and Bush by a few points.

Even though it's possible that Nader's support may drop significantly come election day as it did in 2000, when his final tally was about 2.7 percent of the total vote, anti-Nader voters worry that anything could happen in such a tight and volatile race.

"We want to reach out to Nader supporters because we think they can be a formidable force for change, not just in kicking Bush out, but in creating fundamental change in the Democratic Party," says Tricia Enright, of TheNaderFactor.com, which has already run television ads in New Mexico and Wisconsin, featuring a former Nader voter. "There's room in this party for Dean Democrats and Clark Democrats, and what we want to say is, there's room for Nader Democrats."

But many Nader voters don't want anybody else. "The left is very suspicious of the mainstream Democratic Party establishment," says Steffen Schmidt, professor of political science at Iowa State University. "To them, Nader is still the warrior who stood up and fought and fought and fought, often alone. He was a pioneer against corporations, polluters, and big money. It's not clear that Kerry is going to bear that standard."

Lynda Hernandez is one of those diehard voters. A Green Party member who voted and volunteered for Nader in 2000, she recently took a leave of absence from her job to campaign full time to secure Nader a spot on the California ballot.

"I basically feel that when you vote, you vote for someone you believe in," says Ms. Hernandez, a longtime third-party voter. "Otherwise, why vote?"

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