A Florida court ruled that independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader may not be on the state's Nov. 2 ballot -- at least not yet.

Nader, who was nominated by the Reform Party, had planned to use its line on Florida's presidential ballot. But Democrats sued, contending that the Reform Party -- a shadow of its former self -- is no longer a legitimate national party, as state law requires. The court agreed.

The ruling prevents elections officials from certifying Nader's place on the ballot until a full hearing is held to evaluate whether his candidacy followed state law, the Associated Press reported. The decision also represents good news for Democrats, who fear that Nader's candidacy there might tip the battleground state to President Bush. Circuit Court Judge Kevin P. Davey predicted yesterday that his order would stand.

"I'm quite confident in the ruling. There's at least 15 reasons as to why they won't qualify, at least 15 that I counted up," Davey said. "If it was one or two, I'd be worried about it, but there's a whole lot of reasons Mr. Nader and Mr. [Peter] Camejo aren't going to appear on the ballot in Florida."

The Nader campaign has vowed to fight the decision in court.

Green Party's Blues

It's not easy being Green. But it could be worse.

Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb has had to collect thousands of signatures to get his name on state ballots. But so far, he has escaped the sort of legal wrangling that Democrats have visited upon independent Ralph Nader's ballot drive.

The little-known activist, who won the Green nomination over Nader, has quietly added his name to about a half-dozen ballots, including those in Pennsylvania and Iowa. His campaign said it is awaiting certification in Ohio and New York. It has fallen short in other states, including Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Texas.

Some of Cobb's biggest headaches have come from within his own party, which is still recovering from its contentious presidential convention this summer. The state parties are supposed to put their official candidate on their ballots. But a rebellious Utah chapter has been unable to decide whether to support Cobb, leaving him, at least for now, off its ballot. The Vermont party will vote Sunday on whether to support Nader. Cobb's name is expected to appear on the ballot in most of the other 23 states, along with the District, where his party has automatic access to the ballot. In all, his campaign said, Cobb expects be on the ballot in about 30 states.

Why have Democrats left Cobb alone? Former congressman Anthony J. "Toby" Moffett (Conn.), who is heading up an effort to sidetrack Nader's campaign, said that he is unsure whether Cobb's candidacy will actually hurt the Democrats -- and that his group doesn't have the resources to press both his and Nader's campaigns.

Cheney's Hard Sell

Vice President Cheney continues to make the administration's case that the economy is growing. Yesterday, he said measurements of the nation's unemployment rate and consumer spending miss a key segment: people who make money selling on the auction Web site eBay. "That's a source that didn't even exist 10 years ago," Cheney told an audience in Cincinnati. "Four hundred thousand people make some money trading on eBay."