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The Candidates:
• George W. Bush
• John Kerry
• Ralph Nader
• Third Parties
Showdown States:
The Conventions:
• Democratic
• Republican

While the Democrats and Republicans dominate the headlines, many other political parties have eyes on the White House. Check out the parties below which have run presidential campaigns in the recent past and those that could contend this election season.
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In an anticipated move, the Constitution Party nominated Maryland attorney and anti-abortion activist Michael Peroutka for president at its national convention June 23-26 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The Constitution Party supports a strict constitutional interpretation limiting the federal government's roles, fighting the "corruptive influence of political parties" and bolstering the Bible's influence in public life, particularly the U.S. legal system. Chuck Baldwin, a Baptist pastor and syndicatd talk radio host, is Peroutka's running mate.

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The Green Party received national attention in 2000 when its presidential candidate, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, won 2.7 percent of the vote, infuriating some Democrats who believe Nader's candidacy took votes from Democrat Al Gore and helped Republican George W. Bush win the closely contested election. U.S. activists formed the party in 1984, basing it on the German Green Party. The "Greens" stress environmentalism, nonviolence, social justice and "grassroots organizing" as a counter-balance to the two major political parties. Nader, also the party's 1996 nominee, is running as an independent in 2004, but still sought the Green's endorsement, even picking prominent party member Peter Camejo as his running mate. But the Greens instead nominated Texas lawyer David Cobb, who has made growing the party a priority and said he may adjust his strategy to ensure President Bush does not win re-election.

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Until last year, the Independence Party was the only third party with a governor in its ranks -- Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura. (Maine Gov. Angus King, who also left office in January 2003, was an independent and did not formally belong to a party.) The party was formed in Minnesota in 1992 and changed names when it combined with the Minnesota Reform Party in 1996. It cut ties with the national Reform Party in 2000 and returned to its original name. The Independence Party is now a state-by-state organization, not a national one, and a Minnesota party official said the party is not likely to nominate a presidential ticket. The party, strongest in the Gopher State, aims to attract "centrist voters" with its calls for campaign reform, nonpartisanship and anti-corruption and anti-lobbying efforts.

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Natural Law
Founded in 1992 to "bring the light of science into politics," the Natural Law Party advocates field-tested "solutions" -- such as mediation, organic farming and applying scientific laws -- in education, health, crime, trade, international affairs, environmental and other matters. In 2000, the party's presidential nominee was one of its founders, Iowa physicist John Hagelin, who also received support from a sizable segment of the Reform Party. The Natural Law Party will not nominate a presidential ticket this year, according to party officials.

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The Libertarian Party favors minimizing the federal government's authority in favor of a free-market economy, free trade, nonintervention in international affairs and a dedication to "personal freedom." In 1996 and 2000, investment adviser Harry Browne was the party's presidential nominee. At its late May convention in Atlanta, Georgia, Texas constitutional scholar and computer expert Michael Badnarik came from behind to defeat movie producer Aaron Russo and radio talk show host Gary Nolan to win the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination. Richard Campagna, an attorney in Iowa City, Iowa, took the party's vice presidential nod.

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Many of the Reform Party's top issues -- opposing NAFTA and similar trade agreements, shedding the growing national debt and instituting political reform -- reflect the views of its founder, businessman and 1992 and 1996 presidential candidate Ross Perot. This year the party has endorsed independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, and plans to formally nominate him at its national convention July 22-25 in Columbus, Ohio, according to party officials.

The Nader factor

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While once a prominent national political force, the Socialist Party USA now focuses primarily on local elections and key issues, seeking the presidency on a "case-by-case" basis. The party platform, which it calls "both coherent and radical," faults capitalism for harming the environment, fostering economic inequality (particularly for minorities and women) and helping corrupt the government, and urges major institutional reform. Walt Brown -- a Navy veteran, lawyer and former Oregon state senator -- is running as the party's 2004 presidential nominee with Vermont teacher Mary Alice Herbert as his running mate.

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