WASHINGTON – Ralph Nader (search), facing the wrath of Democrats who blame him for Al Gore's (search) loss in 2000, on Monday offered words of advice to party members who fear his candidacy will help re-elect President Bush.
"I urge the liberal establishment to relax and rejoice," Nader told reporters at a news conference. "This is a campaign that strives to displace the present corporate regime of the Bush administration."
Nader faces a daunting task in simply getting his name on the ballot in all 50 states. The consumer advocate, who turns 70 next week, is an independent without major party support or significant financial resources.
Nader's first target is Texas, where he said he needs to garner more than 60,000 signatures in a 60-day period from voters who are not participating in the Democratic or Republican primaries. "It won't be easy," he said.
As an independent, Nader won't be eligible for up to about $18.6 million in government funding for the primary season, said Federal Election Commission (search) spokesman Bob Biersack. And his failure to capture 5 percent of the vote in 2000 -- he got 2.7 percent as the Green Party's (search) candidate -- also prevents him from receiving taxpayer funding in the general election.
There's also a history of interest dropping in third-party candidates who run again. In the 1992 presidential election, Reform Party candidate Ross Perot (search) won almost 19 percent of the vote. Four years later, Perot took only 8.4 percent.
Nevertheless, Nader said he won't back off from his latest campaign for the White House even if the major candidates are tied in polls going into Election Day.
As the Green Party's nominee in 2000, Nader appeared on the ballot in 43 states and Washington, D.C. In Florida and New Hampshire, Bush won such narrow victories that had Gore received a portion of Nader's votes in those states, he would have won the general election.
Nader urged voters and the media not to use him as a scapegoat for Gore's loss in 2000, arguing that Gore won but was denied the presidency by the Supreme Court and Florida election officials.
"I think this may be the only candidacy in our memory that is opposed by people who agree with us," he said.
Former presidential candidate Howard Dean joined the long list of prominent Democrats critical of Nader's candidacy, urging his constituents not to be "tempted" by a Nader candidacy.
"If George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined," Dean said Monday.
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, Gore's running mate in 2000 and a failed presidential candidate this year, also cautioned voters against supporting Nader.
"I argued and Al Gore did in 2000 that a vote for Ralph Nader was effectively a vote for George Bush, and if you care about the environment and fairness and the economy as Ralph says he does, than you ought to vote for the Democratic ticket," Lieberman said.
Nader said he decided to run because both major political parties refused to address a list of issues that will form the basis of his campaign, including a push for public financing of elections, a universal, single-payer health care system and revising the tax system to ensure wealthy citizens and corporations pay their fair share.
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe says he personally urged Nader not to run, but extracted a promise from Nader that if he did run, he would not focus his fire on the Democratic nominee.
Nader confirmed he would indeed target the Bush administration but warned that he would fight back if Democrats attacked him.