A small but zealous group of antiwar activists in a pacifist commune called Anathoth in this lakeside speck near the Minnesota border say that four years ago, they gave presidential candidate Ralph Nader all five of their votes.
Residents of the rustic community -- founded in 1986 and today boasting nine voting-age members -- say they saw a kindred spirit in the tireless consumer and environmental advocate, as did legions of peace workers across the country.
"He had us excited," said Anathoth's Bonnie Urfer, 52, who helps run Nukewatch, a group that opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons and energy, out of a second-floor office in her stove-heated wood cabin.
But if Nader fails on Nov. 2 to match the 2.8 million votes he won nationally in 2000, he can blame it in part on his shifting fortunes in places such as Luck (population 1,210) and other far-flung outposts of the peace movement.
"To be honest, I don't know anyone who is supporting him this year," Urfer said. "In our community, he'll get something like zero out of nine."
As the most visible opponent of the Iraq conflict in the presidential race, Nader, who says he would slash the military budget and bring U.S. troops home within six months of taking office, has made his antiwar stance the centerpiece of his campaign. He is counting on the support of like-minded voters, especially as casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to mount.
After the first debate between President Bush and Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, who both declared their resolve to defeat insurgents in Iraq, Nader released a statement warning of an "endless occupation," and a "quagmire war."
But leaders of several peace organizations across the country say that Nader is unlikely to earn widespread backing from their members this year. "I think a lot of us are wondering why he is running again," said Woody Powell, executive director of St. Louis-based Veterans for Peace. "It's not clear what there is to gain by voting for him."
In Wisconsin -- a battleground state with a vibrant peace movement, where last week the high court granted Nader a spot on the ballot -- activists expressed little support for his candidacy.
"There's a lot of people who would be sympathetic to his message, but the antiwar movement is very fractured right now," said Robert Ricigliano, director of the peace studies program at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.
Some activists say they are backing Kerry, not because they prefer his platform to Nader's, but because they are concerned he might otherwise lose to Bush, whom they consider the worst available option.
"I'm not even paying much attention to the Nader campaign right now because I am so obsessed with getting rid of the other guy," said Eva Robar-Orlich, 37, a staff member for Wisconsin Peace Action, whose vintage clothing shop in Milwaukee doubles as a voter-registration site and salon for political discussion.
Others, including several residents of the Anathoth commune, expressed disappointment that Nader has failed to turn his antiwar message into a viable, third-party alternative to the Democrats and Republicans. Many who think along these lines say they will back Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb, who has called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq but gets few headlines.
Nader, who ran on the Green Party ticket in 1996 and 2000, made a halfhearted attempt to earn its support this year, skipping its convention in Milwaukee and asking for its endorsement, not its formal nomination.
"We want to build a peace party, not just a peace candidate," said Ben Manski, Nader's Midwest campaign coordinator in 2000, who is backing Cobb this year.
In 2000, Bush lost Wisconsin by about 5,700 votes and this year leads Kerry by a slim but shrinking margin, according to recent opinion polls. Nader, who earned just under 4 percent of the vote here four years ago (94,070 votes), has registered anywhere from 2 to 6 percent in statewide opinion polls over the past month.
Bill Linville, Nader's Wisconsin coordinator, said that there is little appreciable difference between the two major party candidates' views, and compares Nader to the legendary former governor, "Fightin' " Bob LaFollette, a proponent of free speech during World War I. But Linville acknowledges his candidate is struggling for support, even in such left-leaning communities as Luck and Madison, the state capital and the center of Wisconsin's activist community, which became a hub of the student movement against the Vietnam War.
"With our peace message, you'd think Madison might be friendly terrain, but, to be honest, we get yelled at a lot when we go out to campaign. I've been legitimately worried we were going to be attacked," Linville said. Nader last campaigned in Wisconsin in mid-September, although his running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo, visited the state on Friday.
Last weekend, 10 student-age volunteers handed out fliers at Madison's vast outdoor market, where hundreds of merchants sold farm-fresh gourds, cheese bread and frozen custard.
With half a dozen campaigns and candidates working the crowd, every passerby appeared to be plastered in political paraphernalia. But the Nader volunteers, who implored bystanders to "support the peace candidate" or to "help bring the troops home" drew some strong responses.
"Vote Nader, vote peace," Alex Correll, a student at Edgewood College in Madison, repeated every few seconds as shoppers streamed past.
" 'Vote Nader, vote Bush,' you mean," responded a woman pushing her daughter in a stroller, as she took his brochure and crumpled it into her pocket.
The Democratic Party has worked for months to undercut Nader's support, both by unleashing high-profile Kerry surrogates to criticize him and by filing a series of lawsuits to bar him from the ballot in battleground states.
Earlier this month, an anti-Nader interest group called United Progressives for Victory, distributed a letter signed by more than 50 peace activists who declared, "We stand with Nader in demanding that the cause of security and peace be at the top of the national agenda. But we will not vote for him this election."
Republicans, meanwhile, have actively aided Nader's efforts.
As of early last week, Nader had qualified for the ballot in more than 30 states and the District; his name appeared on the ballots of 43 states four years ago.
In Luck -- which according to local legend was named for residents deemed fortunate to live next to the placid local landmark, Butternut Lake -- Nukewatch activists call Nader's advocacy work an inspiration for their efforts to shut down a guidance system used by the U.S. Navy for nuclear submarines.
The Wisconsin transmission point for the program, in which electromagnetic waves are pumped into the bedrock and dispersed across the globe, was closed last month after two decades of protests that led to more than 600 arrests, most of them for trespassing on government property.
"It is a struggle Nader would probably be proud of. And we agree with him about just about everything," said Barbara Miles, a founder of Anathoth, which is named for a biblical city of refuge. "But you can admire a man without voting for him."