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February 21, 2004
Considering Nader

Ralph Nader once again has the political world in a tizzy trying to figure out whether he will run again for President, this time as an independent rather than a Green. Reporters are camped out for the announcement, Democrats are speaking out against one, and Republicans pray for one:

Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," Nader, the Green Party's presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, is expected to announce whether he will make another White House bid, this time as an independent. Democrats who fear he could siphon off enough votes to tip the election to President Bush have been trying to talk him out of it.

"We can't afford to have Ralph Nader in the race," Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe told CNN on Friday. "This is about the future of our country. If you care about the environment, if you care about job growth, you've got to support the Democratic nominee. So I'm urging everybody to talk to Ralph Nader."

So even the worst national party chairman has the shakes when confronted with the possibility of facing a Nader candidacy that only got less than three percent of the vote nationwide last time out. Democrats have blamed Nader for Gore's loss, primarily because the margin of loss in New Hampshire and Florida was less than the votes Nader received in those states. In a close election, having Nader drawing votes away on the left is the nightmare scenario. And with Howard Dean's sudden meltdown at the start of the primaries, Dean's hard-left supporters appear to be a ready-made constituency for Nader.

But if Nader represents Armageddon, why haven't the Democrats done more to bring Nader into their party? After all, Dean's campaign mirrored that of Nader's 2000 run, complete with Internet savvy and policy positions. The only difference was one of temperament, and at that Nader bested Dean. The Democrats -- mostly meaning Terry McAuliffe -- have had over three years to engage Nader, but up to now have spent most of their energy demonizing him. Perhaps they were too confident they'd win, or maybe McAuliffe thought they couldn't get close to Bush this year and another Nader run wouldn't make much difference. Nader himself signaled a willingness to consider options when he publicly broke with the Greens late last year. Whatever the reason, McAuliffe's failure to persude Nader to bring his talents into the Democratic Party is simply inexcusable -- if in fact that's what happened.

Another possibility exists besides a run/don't run announcement. Nader could announce his support for a particular candidate outside of the normal party channels, although that possibility seems rather remote. Who would he endorse that's still in the race? Certainly not Kerry. More than likely it's an announcement that he'll be running. If it's that he's not running, though, it could be that McAuliffe finally did his job and cut an eleventh-hour deal with Nader. What would it take to get Nader into the Democratic Party? How about the VP slot on the ticket? That would keep the Deaniacs from bolting. Putting Dean in the bottom slot would do that, too, but Dean already ruled out an independent run.

Bear this in mind -- if Nader says he's running tomorrow morning, Terry McAuliffe is through, and if Nader says he's not, Terry McAuliffe cut a deal with the devil to stop him.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 21, 2004 11:31 PM

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