Ralph Nader enjoyed another 15 minutes in the presidential spotlight last week, meeting with presumptive Democratic nominee John F. Kerry in what was by all accounts a cordial summit of the anti-Bush opposition.
But some Democrats are privately grumbling about the Massachusetts senator's deference to the man they blame for President Bush's election. Although the Kerry camp is reluctant to publicly diss a potential spoiler, some party activists
suggest Nader is a lot weaker than his nationwide polling number (around 6 percent) suggests.
For starters, there's the question of whether Nader will even be a nationwide candidate, given potential problems in gaining access to state ballots. Nader was on 43 state ballots, plus the District, in the 2000 election. At the moment, however, he is not officially on any ballots. That will undoubtedly change as Naderites collect signatures to get their man listed by the various state deadlines (July to October), and if Nader decides to accept the Reform Party's endorsement and its ballot slots in fewer than 10 states, including Michigan, Florida and Colorado.
But Nader's goal of exceeding his 2000 total will be tough. Who says? Well, Nader himself.
State laws are a patchwork and make access difficult in some places, complains Nader, who wants a single federal standard. "The two parties think they own all the voters and have rigged the system to a level of complexity that could fill two law review volumes," he says.
Even worse for him, at least two groups allied with the Democratic Party are mounting stop-Nader campaigns, including one, the Democratic Action Team, which plans to file a legal brief this week to block him in Texas. In Florida -- home of some of the bitterest Nader haters -- state party chairman Scott Maddox says no legal challenge is planned. But Maddox adds that "we're going to make sure he's dotted all the i's and crossed all the t's" to get his name listed.
Court fights could drain Nader of two things he needs: money and manpower. His campaign has raised just $808,617, which is slightly more than Democratic candidates Al Sharpton raised and about one-12th as much as Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (Ohio). Nader's Federal Election Commission filing on Thursday showed him with a mere $171,412 in the bank at the end of April, not counting a $24,950 debt.
Nader still thinks he can raise more than he did four years ago (about $8 million), but it won't be easy. Says who? Well, Nader again. "We've lost some of our major donors to the virus -- the virus that is the anybody-but-Bush mind-set, which closes people's minds" to alternatives to Kerry.
And this time out, Nader may not have an army of Green Party troops to work on his behalf. He is running as an independent, not as a Green. And if the Greens decide not to endorse Nader and to nominate another candidate, that candidate is likely to cut into Nader's base of support, just as Nader did to Gore.
Oh, the irony.
Hit Turns Into a Myth
E-mails flew around Washington late last week, linking readers to stories in the English-language media in India. The stories carried details about two call centers in New Delhi that were under contract to do fundraising for the Republican National Party. The stories noted the apparent gotcha: At a time when the debate about the outsourcing of jobs in America is raging, the president's own party seemed to be shipping its jobs abroad.
Um, no, not exactly.
Within a couple of hours of the e-mails' appearance, the Republican National Committee was sending out its own e-mail to debunk it. "This story is an untrue urban legend which has been traversing the nether regions of cyber space for the better part of a year," RNC spokesman Jim Dyke said in a statement.
Dyke couldn't resist a little RNC counterpunch: "It's unfortunate that John Kerry's supporters have so little regard for the truth that they would spread Internet stories with no basis in fact."
The source of the e-mails could not be independently determined.
Going Both Ways on the Environment
More than a third of Americans say they don't trust President Bush "at all" as a source of information about the environment, according to a new survey of attitudes about the environment by the Global Strategy Group for the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences. Kerry fares somewhat better, with 24 percent saying they don't trust him on the issue.
But before Kerry's campaign tries to make hay out of that finding, consider the flip side: Although 26 percent of Americans say they trust the president "a lot" for environmental information, only 12 percent say they feel that way about Kerry.
Another survey finding: Survey respondents mentioned environmental concerns (9 percent) almost as often as terrorism (10 percent) as "the most important problem in the United States in the next 20 years." The top-ranking concern is jobs and the economy (17 percent).
You'd Think They'd Be Distracted
A trade organization for adult nightclubs is asking 4,000 owners to register the employees and customers of strip clubs to vote -- and to vote against the president, according to the Associated Press.
"It's not to say our industry loves John Kerry or anything like that," said Dave Manack, associate publisher of E.D. Publications Inc., which publishes Exotic Dancer magazine. "But George Bush, if he's reelected, it could be very damaging to our industry."
Perhaps not what Kerry had in mind, but a vote is a vote.