A trio of judges yesterday rejected Ralph Nader's bid for a spot on the Pennsylvania ballot.

The panel ruled that the longtime consumer advocate could not be listed on the battleground state's Nov. 2 ballot as an independent because he has already been nominated for president by the Reform Party. Nader is on that party's ticket in at least seven states.

Pennsylvania election law prohibits candidates who are tied to political parties from running there as independents.

Kevin B. Zeese, a Nader spokesman, denounced the decision and said the campaign would appeal it to the state's supreme court.

"The Pennsylvania commonwealth decision against Nader and [running mate Peter Miguel] Camejo should frighten every embryonic political and social movement in the country," he said. "It demands that a would-be candidate either be independent nationally or clothed in one party's dress only. Coalitions of social movements and small parties would be impossible."

Nader's bid to get on the Pennsylvania ballot has been subject to legal wrangling by Democrats who fear his candidacy could cost Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry the state's 21 electoral votes. Recent polls show the state closely contested by Kerry and President Bush.

Former vice president Al Gore won the state in 2000 by about 200,000 votes. Nader, who was then running as the Green Party's presidential candidate, won about 100,000 votes.

Voices in the Middle

A group of former Republican officials -- all moderates -- accused their party yesterday of drifting so far to the right that they are no longer in the political mainstream.

"Come back to the mainstream," they said in a newspaper ad published yesterday. "Instead of partisan ideology -- which increasingly has led moderates to leave the party -- what's needed is a speedy return to the pragmatic, problem-solving mainstream."

The group complained that the party's positions on federal judges, the budget deficit, stem cell research, the environment and the nation's international alliances all have placed the organization well to the right of the political center. The ad was signed by 17 former officials, including former Michigan governor William G. Milliken; David F. Cargo, the former governor of New Mexico; and ex-Virginia governor A. Linwood Holton.

The critique comes as the party is attempting to use this week's national convention to put a more centrist face on the organization, by giving, for example, moderates many of the most prominent speaking slots.

"It's rather deceptive," said Milliken, referring to the parade of moderates who will address party delegates. "Because when the party platform, when it comes out, will reflect the hard line . . . this is more of an attempt to give the impression of moderation.

"We simply are saying that the time has come for people who are moderate and progressive in their thinking to reassert themselves," he said.