BOSTON – With polls showing a narrowing gap between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry (search), independent candidate Ralph Nader (search) said Sunday that he planned to continue campaigning in key battleground states in the final month of the presidential election.
In a Newsweek poll, the first taken since the debate Thursday night, Kerry was running even with Bush after having trailed him in the same survey last month. A Los Angeles Times poll of debate viewers showed favorable perceptions of Kerry rose 5 percent, but the survey of 725 registered voters indicated little change in overall backing for the two candidates.
The Times poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, was released for Sunday's editions.
The Newsweek poll showed Kerry had the support of 47 percent and Bush 45 percent, with Nader at 2 percent.
Bush led 49-43 in the poll in early September and was up by 11 points in the poll following the GOP convention. The Newsweek poll of 1,013 registered voters was taken from late Thursday to early Saturday and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Nader has long disputed the charge that he will be a "spoiler" for the Democrats in November. Critics have said his candidacy cost Democrat Al Gore (search) the presidential election in 2000 when he lost by just a few hundred votes in Florida, where the liberal Nader got 97,000 votes for his Green Party candidacy.
While preparing for a campaign trip that begins at Harvard on Monday and continues to the swing states of Maine and New Hampshire on Tuesday, Nader said defeating Bush is a priority, but he's still trying to capture as many votes as possible in November.
"The assumption of all these questions is that I take more votes away from Kerry than Bush. Part of that is in Kerry's hands. He once said he wants to take away my votes by taking away my issues: I'm delivering it to him on a silver platter. He's responsible for that problem," Nader said.
Tobe Berkovitz, a political analyst and professor of communication at Boston University, said Nader's role could prove pivotal once again in the election.
"Nader is a factor because, in a race that seems to be this close, a point here, two points there in a battleground state can make a real difference in the Electoral College (search)," he said.
Nader said that his supporters don't pull votes from one party or the other. Rather, half of his supporters would not otherwise vote at all, and the other half are split equally between Kerry and Bush.
"You never know. Our problem is how to break up the two-party system, not how to concede to one or the other," he said.
Nader's potential swing role for the election spurred a California peace activist to pledge last week not to eat until Nov. 2 in an effort to persuade Nader to drop out of the race.
"We're sending him some carrot juice," Nader said Sunday.