WASHINGTON – Independent presidential hopeful Ralph Nader (search) thinks Democrat John Kerry (search) would be a better candidate and pick up more votes if "he's jogged, nudged and challenged," by third-party candidates like himself.
"But if he doesn't, we'll be happy to pick up those votes," Nader said on Sunday, pledging to stay in the presidential race until the Nov. 2 election.
Democrats blame Nader, the Green Party (search) candidate in 2000, for Al Gore's narrow loss to Republican George W. Bush, arguing that the then-vice president would have benefited from the thousands of votes that instead went to Nader.
Nader blames Gore and notes, among other things, Gore's loss in his home state of Tennessee.
"He slipped on 18 banana peels. Maybe the Green Party was one," Nader said.
Both Nader and Kerry, acquaintances for 30 years, have expressed publicly their desire to sit down and discuss the campaign. No date has been set due to scheduling conflicts, Nader said.
"It's going to be scheduled," he said. "It's just that when we tried to schedule it, he was out of town or I was out of town. But we will get together."
Kerry, who sat for the entire hour Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he'd love to meet with Nader.
"I have great respect for so much of what he has done through his lifetime," the Massachusetts senator said. He said he hoped to win some converts among those who support the longtime consumer advocate.
"I hope that by the end of this campaign, those people will decide John Kerry is going to change the direction of our country. John Kerry can beat George Bush," Kerry said. "We need to beat George Bush, and I will make it unnecessary for them to support Ralph Nader."
Added Nader: "I hope there will be enough collaborative effort between John Kerry and myself, in addition to competing, to go and dislodge the corporation in the White House known as George W. Bush."