DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe Weighs in on Ralph Nader Run

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Feb. 20, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.


RALPH NADER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How many times have you heard the word spoiler? Just think of the contemptuous implications of that term. It's as if anyone who from an independent or third party candidacy takes on the two major parties, that they're a second class citizens and they're considered spoilers. How do you spoil a system that's spoiled to the core in the first place?


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Ralph Nader (search) did it to Al Gore, just as Ross Perot (search) was a spoiler for Bush 41. So how will Democrats respond when, as we have been reporting, he will do this weekend. Ralph Nader announces that he is jumping into this presidential race.

Terry McAuliffe (search) is chairman of the Democratic National Committee. That's the big question today. Terry, will a Ralph Nader campaign siphon votes from your Democratic nominee?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, John, it's great to be back with you.

GIBSON: Nice to see you Terry, yes.

MCAULIFFE: It's good to be back with you. And Judge Napolitano, you know, he is not the same as you, John. So it's great to have you back.

GIBSON: He is sitting here listening to every word.

MCAULIFFE: I know. Absolutely. I hope Ralph Nader doesn't run. I have had several conversations with Ralph Nader. He is going to make up his mind. The word are that he may go out and do it this weekend. I certainly hope he doesn't. I don't want his legacy to be that, you know, he didn't work with us on this key presidential election upcoming, which really is going to change the course of our country.

GIBSON: Look, I saw you in an interview this morning noting — I mean, before Nader seemed to indicate to people that he is going to run — noting that he siphoned off votes in Wisconsin. He siphoned votes in Washington. That there are still people out there if he is on the ballot will vote for him, and that will hurt the Democratic nominee. So what do you think Ralph Nader is up to? Does he want President Bush to be re-elected?

MCAULIFFE: I think he wants to run. If he does decide to run, I think, John, it's all what he wants for himself. And I think he himself is making the decision, does he want to run as an independent. He won't be running as a Green Party candidate. So it will be a little different this time around if he decides to run. But listen, we want him in helping us. He has told me that even if he does run as an independent, that he would not work hard in target states. That he would help the Democratic nominee in those states. We'll see where we go. You know, the issues he has fought for his whole life, those issues are at stake in this year's election. We need him, John.

GIBSON: Terry, is it true that the reason you can't convince Ralph Nader is he thinks you are the problem, that big money, which you have had a hand in raising for President Clinton, for Al Gore, and now for whoever the Democratic nominee is going to be, is the problem, and he won't cooperate because of you?

MCAULIFFE: I am a little moneyman now. After the McCain-Feingold job, we all go and get the small donor checks. I'm happy to report that our direct mail fundraising is off the chart. In fact, we've had the biggest December and January in small donors in the history of our party.

GIBSON: I know that's how the system runs, but Ralph objects to it.

MCAULIFFE: Listen, I — you know, I spent three hours sitting with Ralph Nader talking about the issues that he and I agree on and why we need to be working together. Listen, he has to make up his own decision, but the issues that he has fought for in his whole life are on the table this November 2nd. And I would want him working at our side because I would hate for his legacy to not having worked with us and to allow George Bush to potentially get four more years.

GIBSON: So he has an appearance on "Meet The Press" on Sunday, and you have Friday night, you have Saturday night - you have Saturday and Saturday night. What can you do in that amount of time to get Ralph Nader back in the dugout?

MCAULIFFE: Well, I'm having anyone who ever ran into him at a street corner over the last 50 years to give him a call. I believe he is out of the country for the next day and a half, so I don't think he is in the country. Seriously, John, we need people to call him up. I know that a lot of people have talked to him who are very progressive, who have fought with him and helped him on these issues saying please don't do it. I know there have been very active conversations.

GIBSON: Terry, before I run out of time, I have to ask you about this before I run out of time. Your candidate — or at least what appears to be your candidate at the moment.

MCAULIFFE: I got four.

GIBSON: Well, you got one that's clearly ahead, and appears to be the candidate. He is saying I don't want my advocates to use President Bush's war record, Vietnam War record, the National Guard, against him. And you repeated those charges only today. Why won't you do what John Kerry says?

MCAULIFFE: I just want to see the truth out there. This goes to credibility. George Bush has continually misled us on the economy, job growth, deficits, how much it would cost for a prescription drug bill, weapons of mass destruction.

GIBSON: But Kerry is saying, Terry, lay off.

MCAULIFFE: John, I have a different role than our potential nominee and the candidates have. I am chairman of the party. And I am going to raise these issues.

GIBSON: But does that mean, Terry, that John Kerry really doesn't want you to lay off and that he is not telling us the truth when he says he is telling his advocates to stop bringing this up?

MCAULIFFE: I have had no conversations with John Kerry on this issue. I have to do what I have to do as chairman of this party to highlight these issues. And I — John, you have to understand. This was in response to the Republican chairman attacking John Kerry. It is a new day. If you punch us, we're going to punch you back harder, John. We are not going to stand for this kind of behavior.

GIBSON: But, Terry, you repeated it only today.

MCAULIFFE: And I'll repeat it again here right now. The documents out doesn't prove anything. But you know what, this goes to Bush's credibility.

GIBSON: They don't prove a negative. Doesn't it go to John Kerry's credibility and your credibility?

MCAULIFFE: My credibility is intact today. There are legitimate questions questionable about his war record. The documents that he put out have not cleared any of this up. In fact, John, they have raised more issues.

GIBSON: Terry McAuliffe.

MCAULIFFE: Glad to be with you.

GIBSON: You will come back, won't you?

MCAULIFFE: I do, I love Fox. I love you. I'm excited. You bet.

GIBSON: All right, Terry McAuliffe.

MCAULIFFE: Great to see you.

GIBSON: Good to see you. Thanks a lot.

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