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Don't care if campaign elects Bush, Nader says

Thursday, October 26, 2000

By Ann McFeatters, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Despite daily emissaries from the Democratic Party begging him to stop drawing support from Vice President Al Gore, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader insisted yesterday that he doesn't care if his campaign elects George W. Bush.

He told "frightened" liberals to "relax" because they'd be better off if his fledgling "political reform movement" gets a foothold.

Nader, who is garnering about 5 percent in most national polls while Bush and Gore are statistically dead even, said in a news conference that he repudiated arguments yesterday from Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., and from a "major" labor leader, who asked him for anonymity, that his candidacy could siphon off enough Gore supporters to give at least six traditionally Democratic states to Bush. That would be potentially crucial in a close election, costing the Democrat about 61 votes in the Electoral College, where 270 votes are needed to win the presidency.

In comments as hostile to Gore as to Bush, Nader said it "doesn't matter" which of them wins because both parties are mired in "decay." He said "linguistic differences" between the two major parties melt away in the White House because of the "corporatization" of politics and the presence of 22,000 corporate lobbyists in Washington.

"Only Al Gore can beat Al Gore, and he's been doing a good job" -- unable to overcome a "bumbling" Bush, Nader scoffed.

The Democratic Party -- suddenly alarmed by Nader's staying power among younger voters, disaffected Ross Perot supporters and many in college towns and suburbs -- is sending party leaders and prominent liberal celebrities into once-safely-Democratic strongholds in such states as Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Michigan and Wisconsin to stem the tide. Their message to liberals: A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush, who would overturn their agenda.

GOP pollster Bill McInturff said he's finding that Nader is appealing to voters turned off by both Gore and Bush, but is especially attracting those "who don't like Gore." Independent pollster John Zogby agreed, saying Nader could make a difference in Bush's favor in at least six states because of his appeal to 18- to 24-year olds, liberals and independents.

Nader said he'll intensify his traveling in the next week and a half before the Nov. 7 election from New England to California, Minnesota to Florida.

"Real juice on the ground becomes real juice on the ballot," McInturff said. "This guy [Nader] is very viable. Gore should be trying to stop Nader. He has put in play states that Bush had no shot in, attracting college communities and very affluent neighborhoods. Seventy percent of his voters will be Democrats, and 30 percent will be new voters who could help Democrats in Congress."

McInturff said he's convinced that Nader's campaign could hurt Republican congressional candidates by bringing out "left-of-center" voters who otherwise would not vote. That's potentially significant because only six House seats need to become Democratic for that party to recapture control of the chamber.

Groups such as People for the American Way, the National Abortion Rights Action League and the League of Conservation Voters are starting to run ads warning that abortion choice, the Supreme Court makeup and environmental regulations are at stake if they cast a vote for Nader -- in effect, a "wasted" or Bush vote.

Nader contends that neither is true, and that he wouldn't be running if he believed it. He insisted that his intent is to improve the prospects for a third-party movement.

Emphasizing his liberal credentials, Nader yesterday criticized both Bush and Gore for allegedly ignoring 47 million Americans who work full-time but make less than $10 an hour and 31 million "hungry" Americans. He quoted a statistic that many employees are working 163 hours more than they did in 1968, but earning $2.15 an hour less in real money than comparable jobs paid then.

Nader said it is wrong that members of Congress raised their own salaries by $3,800 this year but have not raised the minimum hourly wage from $5.15. A family of four should earn a minimum wage of at least $8.50 an hour to get out of poverty, he said.

The Green Party candidate said voters should not have to vote for "the lesser of two evils" by choosing Bush or Gore.

Nader yesterday particularly criticized Gore for "betrayal" of environmental promises. He said he holds the vice president responsible for administration approval of the hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio, for failing to improve auto fuel efficiency standards and expand solar energy, for subsidizing so-called "clean coal," for permitting grazing on public lands, for removing a prohibition on cancer-causing ingredients in food or pesticides, for ending the tracking of wetlands destruction, for slowing the phaseout of chlorofluorocarbons and for a reduction in environmental crime prosecutions.

New polling indicates that Nader is striking home in his campaign to deride Gore. The Pew Research Center for People and the Press asked likely voters whether Bush or Gore is best described by the phrase "typical politician." The poll found that 45 percent picked Gore and 29 percent chose Bush -- a change from September, when the two were about equal.

Despite predictions that former Republican Pat Buchanan might hurt Bush in a close election, the Reform Party candidate has consistently drawn no more than 1 percent in national polls of likely voters.

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