Nader eyeing another White House run
From Phil Hirschkorn
Ralph Nader is seen here in a file photograph from an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live."
PRINCETON, New Jersey (CNN) -- Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said Thursday he is leaning toward another independent run for the presidency and will make his decision public in January.
"We're testing the waters," Nader said in an interview with CNN. "It's a high probability but that is yet to be determined."
Nader has formed an exploratory committee for a 2004 run and said he would gauge his support through the success of fund-raising efforts and the number of volunteers who come forward.
The consumer advocate last made a bid for the White House in 2000 on the Green Party ticket, when he won about 3 percent of the popular vote nationwide and got 5 percent or more in 12 states.
In fact, some Democrats blamed Nader, 69, for siphoning off votes that might have gone to Democratic candidate Al Gore, especially in the hard-fought state of Florida, where Nader took 97,000 votes.
"Gore beat Gore," Nader says to those charges. "He didn't get Tennessee, his home state. That would have made him president. And he blundered in Florida and didn't ask for a statewide recount."
"I would say to Democratic voters the following: If you think that a third party candidacy is going to take away votes and cost the Democrats the election, you've got the power entirely within your own franchise when you go to the voting booth and vote for the Democrats," Nader added.
He said if he were to run, he would focus his efforts on the third of the electorate that's not aligned with either party and with the 100 million adults who are non-voters.
Nader was in Princeton Thursday for a strategy session with Green Party activists to consider the pros and cons of another race.
He said his decision will be twofold: whether to run for the presidency at all, and whether to run again on the Green Party ticket.
Meanwhile, the party is divided on another Nader candidacy.
Green Party member Larry Barnett, the former mayor of Sonoma, California, and now a member of its city council, said the party's priority should be defeating George W. Bush.
"Any diversion from that, even rooted in principle, interferes with that goal," he said, explaining why he's against another Nader run.
"I would urge him to throw his weight behind whoever the Democratic Party puts up," Barnett said.
In assessing the current field of presidential hopefuls, Nader said he supports some of their platforms, but something's missing.
"I like some of the things that the Democratic candidates are saying, but you have to hold their feet to the fire," he said. "Sometimes that requires competing candidacies, greater choice and breaking up that exclusionary presidential debate organization."
In the 2000 campaign, both Nader and independent candidate Pat Buchanan were excluded from the fall presidential debates between Gore and Bush.
"I think there's a great need for a progressive candidate for the presidency," Nader said. "The two parties are very much dialing for the same commercial dollars. The two parties are ignoring issues like a living wage."
In the 2000 race, Nader raised $8 million. He said if he mounts another campaign he hopes to raise between $5 million and $10 million.
Another factor in his decision will be how the two main parties respond to a 25-page agenda he has sent to them, to determine whether they are addressing issues he believes are important.
"One of the justifications for this campaign is to preserve and expand the right of third parties and independent candidates to challenge the two-party duopoly system," Nader said. "I see it as a civil liberties issue of free speech."
CNN's Kelly Wallace contributed to this report.