Nader's rise puts Gore on guard 
      The consumer crusader is siphoning enough Democratic votes to tilt some 
      key Western states toward GOP's Bush. 
      Peter Grier ([EMAIL PROTECTED]) 
      Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

      Ralph Nader's Green Party presidential bid is attracting enough liberal 
      support in key states to make life difficult for Al Gore this fall.
      That's right - Ralph Nader. The venerable consumer crusader, a staple on 
      the college lecture circuit for decades, has roared out of nowhere to 
      scoop up environmentalist and union voters and threaten the Democratic 
      presidential candidate from his left flank.
      "Threaten" might be too strong a word, but "bedevil," certainly. Right now 
      Mr. Nader is running at 4 to 10 percent in the polls in California - just 
      enough to tip a state Mr. Gore must win into the GOP column. He has a 
      similar effect in Oregon and Washington.
      If nothing else, it seems probable that Nader will combine with the Reform 
      Party's Pat Buchanan to account for 10 percent of the vote in November. 
      That would make 2000 the third successive presidential election in which 
      third parties reached that level of support.
      "That may never have happened before," says David Gillespie, a political 
      scientist and third-party expert at Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C.
      Nader's appearance on the political horizon has taken many major-party 
      activists by surprise. After Donald Trump declined to run, and Jesse 
      Ventura opted to stay in Minnesota, and Ross Perot quit overt politicking, 
      Pat Buchanan was supposed to be the major minor candidate.
      But so far, Mr. Buchanan's defection from the GOP to the Reform Party has 
      not helped either him or his new organization. Many of Buchanan's 
      conservative followers did not ride with him away from the Republicans. 
      And the Reform Party itself has been riven by his appearance in its midst. 
      A significant percentage of Reformers don't agree with Buchanan's 
      conservative views on abortion and other social issues.
      Meanwhile, Nader was deciding that the times were right for a concerted 
      effort on his part.
      As the Green Party candidate in 1996, Nader barely campaigned at all. He 
      spent less than $5,000 and got on the ballot in only a few states. In 
      2000, Nader has already raised at least $350,000 toward a goal of $5 
      million. He claims he will have his name on the ballot in 45 states.
      His basic theme: The Democratic and Republican parties are virtually the 
      same, and they are both tools of big business. Being Ralph Nader, he 
      delivers this message with a ferocity that appeals to committed activists.
      "On the big issue of whether our corporate government is going to take 
      over our political government in Washington, you know what the difference 
      [between the parties] is," he told a Michigan crowd recently. "The 
      difference is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when the 
      corporations come knocking on the door."
      Some union leaders, frustrated by the Clinton administration's push for 
      permanent normal trade relations with China, are openly talking about a 
      Nader endorsement. United Auto Workers head Stephen Yokich praised him 
      last week, saying Nader's policies are not based on "what big money 
      A few environmental groups feel the same way. Friends of the Earth is 
      perhaps the largest such organization weighing a Nader endorsement.
      All this has skyrocketed ... well, blipped Nader's support up to 6 percent 
      nationally in a recent Zogby poll. While small, that percentage was enough 
      to tilt the survey to presumed Republican nominee George W. Bush, assuming 
      Nader's support would otherwise vote Democratic. Mr. Bush got 43 percent 
      in the poll, and Gore 39.
      Nader "is creating a little more noise than people would have thought," 
      says Lee Miringoff, a political scientist at Marist College's Institute 
      for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. "In isolated states, he could be 
      a factor."
      For the Gore campaign, the problem is where that might occur. Polls show 
      Nader getting as much as 10 percent of the vote in California, making that 
      state competitive for Bush. In fact, at his current level of support, 
      Nader turns the whole Pacific coast from a Democratic stronghold into a 
      If Nader gets even 3 percent in Michigan and the rest of the upper 
      Midwest, he could throw the election to the Republicans, depending on how 
      much conservative support Buchanan siphons from Bush.
      It's early yet, and support for protest candidates often evaporates as the 
      election draws near.
      Furthermore, Nader's position as a possible spoiler may be more indicative 
      of Gore weakness than Nader strength. In California and other key states, 
      "Gore is not running as well now as he needs to anyway," says Mr. 
      Gore campaign officials express unconcern about the Nader factor. They 
      feel that his "surge," such as it is, is little more than a talking point 
      for pundits.
      Yet some experts say Nader is simply of a piece with Mr. Perot and other 
      recent third-party phenomena. The last two presidential elections have 
      already seen nonmajor parties get more than 10 percent of the vote - the 
      first time that has happened sequentially since before the Civil War.

            (c) Copyright 2000 The Christian Science Publishing Society. All 
            rights reserved.

Warm regards
George Pennefather

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