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Numbers may be small, but impact could be huge

From Wolf Blitzer

Ralph Nader

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ralph Nader campaigned in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday -- for the Muslim vote.

"It's time for the American people to realize the Muslim Americans are only the latest religious and ethnic group to feel the brunt of political hysteria and abuse," Nader said at an event hosted by The Council for the National Interest and The Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The independent candidate is working the crowds hard, and his poll numbers, while tiny compared to President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, are still significant given the electoral college winner take all system in each state.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll in the key battleground state of Florida shows the following:

In a three-way contest, Bush and Kerry have 43 percent each to Nader's five.

In a two-way contest, Kerry comes in with 46 percent to Bush's 44 -- within the margin of error.

Could Florida be deja vu all over again?

In 2000, Bush carried the state by 537 votes -- and won the election. Nader received 97,488 votes in Florida, and most observers agree a majority of them would have been more likely to vote for Al Gore than George Bush.

"I think Ralph Nader's candidacy is the single biggest danger to the Kerry candidacy. He only has to take three percent of the vote in two or three states to send George Bush back to the White House," former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean said recently on CNN's "Late Edition."

The Nader effect could be decisive in several other battleground states as well.

In Michigan, a recent poll had Kerry with 45 percent; Bush with 43 percent and Nader with three percent.

In New Hampshire, another poll has Bush and Kerry at 46 percent each and Nader coming in with two percent.

Similar numbers were collected in Wisconsin -- Bush 44; Kerry 42; Nader with four.

The Nader factor could be even more important in Pennsylvania. A recent poll had Kerry at 44; Bush at 43 and Nader at 7 percent -- each within the margin of error.

Since announcing his candidacy, Nader has strongly denied he's a spoiler for the Democrats. He says he's attracting Republican votes as well.

"This assumption that my votes only come from the Democrats is simply not true," said Nader on CNN's "Late Edition." "Even in the year 2000, it wasn't true. A majority of the votes for me in the year 2000 were either people who didn't -- who wouldn't have voted otherwise, or who would have voted for Bush."

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