Democrats nervously await Nader's decision
Party fears advocate would hurt its nominee's chances
Ralph Nader has said he would run as an independent if he does seek the White House.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With consumer advocate Ralph Nader expected to announce this weekend whether he will run for president as an independent, Democrats urged him Friday to not seek a third-party candidacy, fearing he could ruin their White House hopes.
"We can't afford to have Ralph Nader in the race. This is about the future of our country," Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told CNN. "We need Ralph Nader supporting the Democratic nominee, energizing people. George Bush has been a disaster on the issues that matter to him."
He added, "I'm urging everybody to talk to Ralph Nader."
Both parties expect a close race in November, as in 2000, when Nader is believed to have pulled votes from Democratic nominee Al Gore. Nader, who ran on the Green Party ticket, received nearly 100,000 votes in Florida, which Bush carried by a mere 537 votes. In New Hampshire, Bush beat Gore by 7,000 votes; Nader captured 22,000 votes there.
Had Gore won either state, he would be president.
Nader is scheduled to announce his decision Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." He has said that if he does run, it would be as an independent and not as a Green Party candidate.
CNN political analyst Carlos Watson said Democrats "should be very nervous" if Nader gets in the race.
"His involvement could be critical here in terms of the ultimate outcome, if he makes it all the way to the general election," Watson said.
In an interview with CNN, California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said if she could speak with Nader directly, she would tell him, "Don't do it. You ruin it. You may take away a key percentage of votes, but no more than that."
She added, "I think the role at this point that he plays is a similar role to what he played last time, and that's a spoiler. I hate to say that."
McAuliffe said he would hate for Nader's legacy to be that "he got George Bush for eight years in this country."
DNC spokeswoman Debra DeShong said in a written statement, "It would be a shame if what Americans remember after a lifetime fighting for working families is the fact that [Nader] did not fight on the side of the Democratic Party and its nominee when all of those issues he and us hold dear were at risk.
"We would hope that he does not run and have conveyed that message to him."
Speaking on the campaign trail in Maryland, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards sought to portray himself as the alternative to Nader for independent voters.
"I think if we have someone at the top of the ticket that's appealing to independents, appealing to the kind of people who might be attracted to a Nader campaign, then we'll be fine," he said. "And I think I'm exactly that kind of candidate."
Democratic front-runner John Kerry said he and Nader "stand together" on issues such as health care, taxes and the environment.
"Americans who want to see change in this nation know how important it is to defeat George W. Bush," Kerry said. "To do that, it is important that we remain united in November and rally behind the Democratic nominee, whoever that may be."