9/27/2004

Another Democrat Attack

As he bounces between college campuses, few signs or banners greet him. The network cameras are strangers. And copies of his book sometimes arrive late, just like the candidate, who flies coach and travels in a motorcade of one. If the modern presidential campaign is partly about stagecraft, Ralph Nader is lagging far behind. Even his news conferences, like one held recently in the cramped backstage of a University of Wisconsin theater, are often randomly thrown together. But logistical challenges aside, there is no stopping the longtime consumer advocate as he attacks the establishment and portrays Sen. John Kerry as a Democrat who has lost his way.

"You need to put demands on Kerry," Nader said, surrounded by a bizarre mix of theater costumes and stage props, rolls of carpet and thick ropes. "Pull him to progressive positions if you want him to win." ter mostly unsuccessful efforts to block him from state ballots, Democrats fear Nader's quixotic campaign - one that will be absent from Thursday's presidential debate - could yet again upend the election.

As in other states, Democrats are working aggressively to keep Nader off Wisconsin's ballot. They filed a lawsuit against him last week, days after the state Elections Board decided he had met state ballot requirements. Although challenges continue, Nader has secured a spot on 36 state ballots, including the crucial state of Florida, according to Ballot Access News. Minnesota and Iowa, two other battlegrounds included in his recent three-day Midwest tour, are also on that list.

While he won't be in the debate this week in Coral Gables, Fla., Nader won't be far away. He plans to campaign throughout Florida this week and near the debate site on Thursday.
Unlike third-party candidate Ross Perot, who participated in the 1992 presidential debates, Nader has not gathered enough support in national polls to be on the debate stage, which also was the case in 2000.

With the continuing legal battles over ballot access, Nader and his two or three traveling assistants are constantly looking for overnight mail drop-off sites, notary publics and fax machines to deal with corresponding paperwork. University campuses are the preferred speaking stops for Nader, whose cash-strapped campaign saves money by avoiding the rental fees required for hotel ballrooms or other venues.

At every stop, reporters ask him the same question he was asked in 2000: Doesn't your presence hurt the Democrat, someone closer to your views than Bush?

"Either we're all spoilers of one another or none of us are spoilers," Nader shot back during a news conference at the Milwaukee Press Club.

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