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Nader says he'll meet with Kerry

Independent candidate cites common objective: Bush's defeat

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Ralph Nader
George W. Bush
John F. Kerry

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader said he will meet with presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry next month to discuss their "common objective" of beating President Bush in November.

The Kerry campaign had no immediate comment to Nader's disclosure, which came as the consumer advocate campaigned Sunday in Atlanta, Georgia.

Nader said the meeting will take place in Washington in April but said no specific date has been set. He told CNN that he and Kerry "have a common objective, and that's to defeat the giant corporation residing in the White House masquerading as a human being."

"I'm going to say, 'Look, let's collaborate to defeat George Bush, even though we're competitors,' " Nader said. "John Kerry just stood firm on fuel efficiency standards for cars to go to 36 miles a gallon on the average by the end of 2015. We're going to back him up with the engineering data for that because we know a little bit about the auto industry. And we're going to say it's not enough.

"So that will bolster [the case] against Bush, who represents oil and gas interests and wouldn't mind if your car got six miles on the gallon."

Many Democrats blame Nader's Green Party presidential bid in 2000 for contributing to former Vice President Al Gore's loss that year. Last week, former President Carter urged Nader to quit this year's race.

"Ralph, go back to umpiring softball games or examining the rear end of automobiles, and don't risk costing the Democrats the White House this year as you did four years ago," Carter told a party unity dinner in Washington.

But Nader said Sunday he does not expect Kerry to try to talk him into dropping out.

"I've known him for many years," Nader said. "I wouldn't ask him to do that if I were in his place. We all have an equal right to run for president in this country. And we should respect that, and compete, and see who does best by the voters in this country."

Some recent polls have shown Nader drawing 5 percent of voters surveyed or more and find a Bush-Kerry race is closer without him as a third candidate. But the independent candidate said Sunday that he could cost Bush more votes than Kerry if he stayed in the race.

"The members of the party out of power come back to the fold," Nader said. "There are a lot of conservatives, liberals, Republicans and independents who are furious with George W. Bush over deficits, over the sovereignty-shredding effect of WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], over corporate crime that's not being cracked down on and especially over all these taxpayer subsidies to corporations. Those are the people I'm going to try to appeal to."

During his trip to Atlanta, Nader met privately with Shawn O'Hara, chairman of the Reform Party USA, a successor to Ross Perot's third-party candidacy in 1992 and 1996.

Nader said he may run on that party's ticket in "an attempt to collaborate and not waste too many resources."

He said he may do it in some states but not nationally as Perot did, saying, "I'll still be an independent candidate."

Nader said in certain states such as North Carolina he is starting a Populist Party to take advantage of less stringent ballot qualifications for third parties.

He called for the federal government to set uniform rules for getting presidential candidates on the ballot in every state, calling laws "arbitrary and capricious."

CNN's Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

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