Nader Tells Dems to Relax

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report with Brit Hume", Feb. 23, that has been edited for clarity.

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RALPH NADER, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd like to make a personal statement to Terry McAuliffe, John Kerry, John Edwards, Al Sharpton and ex-Governor Dean. Relax. Rejoice that you have another front carrying the ancient but unfulfilled pretensions and aspirations of the Democratic Party.


BRIT HUME, HOST: As we noted earlier, many Democrats don't seem the least bit relaxed and they certainly aren't rejoicing. But should they be so worried about a man whose impact on the 2000 election occurred in only two states, and would have made no difference but for the extreme closeness of the race?

For answers, we turn to Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Institute of Politics, who joins us from Charlottesville, Virginia.

Good evening Larry Sabato. How are you tonight?


HUME: Good. Well, should Democrats be as exorcised about the Nader entry as they seem to be?

SABATO: No. I mean look, Brit, this is not good news for Democrats but it's hardly a disaster. Nader is probably not going to be the nominee of the Green Party, running as an Independent. He's not going to be on a lot of state ballots.

I'm here to bet you that instead of the nearly 3 percent of the vote that he got in 2000, he'll get somewhere around 1 percent or less in 2004. People say oh, but that's still a lot of votes. This could be the difference in a super close election.

That is true. You know when the last time America had two super close presidential elections? The years 1888 and 1892, that's the last time we had two in a row that were super close; the odds historically are strongly against Nader having a major effect in 2004.

HUME: Now, the other candidates are saying that we don't need Nader in the race. They say, you know, you really don't need to have Nader because we -- they don't say we, they say I. But both Kerry and Edwards having been saying I will represent the interests and views and issues that Ralph Nader has raised, and will raise in this campaign. Does he, therefore, have some effect on tugging them to the left?

SABATO: He might. I don't think they're going to be terribly worried about them once we get into the campaign, for the reasons I suggested. And let's also add that a lot of liberals and Democrats who indulge themselves and voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, have finally come to realize they handed the election to George W. Bush in that super close election, as you mentioned in 2000. I'll bet he's not that much of a factor. And all of this falderal is just that, falderal.

HUME: We are all around here at Fox News kind of crediting our own poll, which has had a pretty good track record on this whole question of how much -- how far down and in how much trouble the president is.

And at the moment, that poll is like, 45-45; it's basically a tie between the president and John Kerr, the front-runner, and presumptive nominee.

That being the case, at least in our eyes here, what is your take on this situation, which the president is inching into the fray here a little bit? John Kerry was saying over the weekend that the GOP is attacking his patriotism, that the president has himself initiated an attack on Kerry, and basically his post Vietnam (search ) record. What about all of that? Is that -- what's behind all of that?

SABATO: Well, what's behind it is that Kerry is attempting to make himself invulnerable to attacks on his record, on his 19-year voting record in the Senate. He's going to try to suggest somehow that's an attack on his patriotism.

Remember, Phase 1 of this was the attack on George Bush's National Guard service, which in my view, is one of the most ridiculous media feeding frenzies ever. But the demo...

HUME: Why do you say that?

SABATO: Because there was so little substance to it. This was gone over in 2000. It's six wars ago, as comedian Jon Stewart put. And frankly, it just doesn't have any relevance to 2004.

But it does suggest that the Democrats are going to make certain John Kerry is not another Michael Dukakis, that he fights back maybe too hard every time he thinks he's attacked.

HUME: Well, do you think this line of defense, which basically says look, you know, he certainly hasn't kept Vietnam out of his campaign, it's been kind of centerpiece of his campaign. That basically when questions arise on his positions national defense matters, intelligence and so on that will this be a -- can this succeed as a kind of inoculation against those attacks, this kind of approach?

SABATO: This will not succeed. And the reason I say it is because most Americans make a clear distinction between heroic service in Vietnam, which I think Kerry did have. Let's forget about the post Vietnam war events with Jane Fonda. And his actual voting record, as a United States senator for 19 years.

Brit, you've been through so many campaigns. Negative stuff that people view as illegitimate, are the attacks on people's character and personal life, that kind of thing. That's -- that maybe is off limbs. An attack on somebody's voting record? That is completely within bounds. If we can't talk about somebody's voting record, we can't talk about anything in a campaign.

HUME: That appears to be what perhaps one side of this race is hoping for.

Larry Sabato, it's always good to have you. Thanks very much for coming.

SABATO: Thank you Brit.

HUME: And all the best.

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