Ralph Nader? No problem, say a majority of Democratic convention delegates.
Nearly two-thirds of the delegates to next week’s convention in Boston say they don’t think Nader’s longshot independent presidential campaign will cost presumed Democratic nominee John Kerry support this fall, according to an Associated Press survey of delegates.
Many Democrats blame Nader for taking enough votes from Al Gore to help President Bush win the 2000 election. Party notables such as former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have pleaded with Nader to exit this year’s race.
In key states like Arizona, Democrats have mounted legal challenges to keep Nader off the ballot. At the same time, some Republican groups have tried to help Nader win ballot spots in Oregon and Michigan.
Nader lashed out at both parties in a statement Wednesday: “We want them to get off our back, leave us alone, stop trying to infiltrate our campaign and let us compete in an already rigged two-party political system.”
Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said he hoped the delegate survey would lead Democrats to back off such challenges.
“They’re smart,” Zeese said Wednesday. “The reality is we have always been targeting President Bush’s base.”
AP correspondents around the country interviewed some 3,200 delegates over the last two months. That’s about three-quarters of the 4,300-plus who will attend the convention.
Roughly 65 percent of delegates said it was not likely that Nader would take enough votes away from Kerry to cost the Massachusetts senator the election, while 14 percent said Nader would have a detrimental effect.
Most of the remaining delegates didn’t have an opinion or refused to answer the question.
Polls show Nader running a distant third in the presidential race. The latest Pew Research Center poll showed Kerry with 46 percent and Bush at 44 percent — a virtual tie. Nader was at 3 percent.
Many of the delegates — who typically are more politically active than rank-and-file voters — were optimistic that Americans who voted for Nader in 2000 would think twice about casting the same ballot this year.
“A lot of people learned their lesson in 2000,” said Avtar Khalsa, 53, a delegate from Flagstaff, Ariz. “I’ve never seen Democrats as motivated as they are this year, and I think that’s why there is a lot less support among liberals or progressive Democrats (for Nader) this year.”
Delegate Randy Soltero, 42, of Las Vegas, said Nader’s campaign would fizzle.
“People will figure out he’s doing the same old thing he’s always done — play a spoiler role,” Soltero said.
Nader was endorsed by the national Reform Party in May, giving him ballot access in at least six states: Florida, Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina. But he has struggled in several other states to gather the thousands of signatures needed to qualify as an independent.
Last month, the Green Party declined to endorse Nader, which could have given him access to ballots in 22 states and Washington, D.C. When he ran in 2000, Nader appeared on ballots in 43 states and Washington, D.C.
The next 30 days are critical for Nader’s campaign as deadlines approach in nearly all other states. Ballot access experts say Nader likely will appear on ballots in about 25 states that don’t require more than a few thousand signatures.
Nader has already failed to get enough signatures in more difficult states — including Arizona, Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas — that require tens of thousands of valid signatures.