Tags: Candidate | Nader

Candidate Nader

Thursday, 26 February 2004 12:00 AM

Conventional wisdom says that a Nader 4 percent is more than enough to make a difference in key battleground states like New Hampshire and Florida -- where Ralph Nader's votes, had he withdrawn, would have provided a victory for Al Gore.

Of course, you can't always count on conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom says that Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean was the highlight of Dean's campaign, but it certainly turned out to be the first kiss of death.

If anything should be clear by now, it is that this is not a conventional year. Conventional wisdom can't be counted on.

In an evenly divided country, victory would normally go to the candidate who can appeal to the voters in the middle. In a sharply polarized country, that bloc is small. Republicans are fond of branding Kerry a Massachusetts liberal, as they did Michael Dukakis, in the hopes that it will similarly alienate him from moderate voters.

Not so fast.

For one thing, Kerry is not a Dukakis, and this theory depends on a candidate's ability to hold onto his base. Kerry is not backing down and is responding to Bush's comments and allegations about him -- something neither Gore nor Dukakis were quick to do. Kerry is securing his base, as Democrats are coming together as Republicans have traditionally done, to defeat the common enemy in this case, Bush.

Nader notwithstanding, Democrats have never been more united. That was clear in the reaction to Nader's announcement. Rather than being a divider, Nader is a reunifying force. Even Nader's friends are denouncing him.

The only people welcoming him into the race are Republicans. But they have a candidate with real problems in his base: George W. Bush. With his "Defense of Marriage" announcement, he has placated the right wing, while alienating the more liberal Republicans.

By proposing the first-ever exclusionary Constitutional amendment, he has alienated the strict constructionists who don't feel that the nation's most sacred document should be tampered with lightly.

Yet on the other hand, through his immigration proposals, Bush is alienating his right-wing conservative base, while attempting to appeal to the Hispanic vote, a group that has never been part of his base.

The flap over his National Guard record hasn't read well, either, with veterans of both political stripes. He's turning into a runner-up in the political beauty contest.

Meeting last week in California even as Nader was announcing his candidacy, California Republicans were booing their major stars -- George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Republicans are dividing at the same time that Democrats are uniting. Conservatives are angry -- about gay marriage, immigration and deficits.

Bush hasn't mounted a strong defense against the Democrats' charges of a faltering economy. He hasn't come up with a plausible explanation of his National Guard problem. The Democrats have put him on the defensive.

It sounds a lot like 1992 -- and that's Karl Rove's worst nightmare.

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Conventional wisdom says that a Nader 4 percent is more than enough to make a difference in key battleground states like New Hampshire and Florida -- where Ralph Nader's votes, had he withdrawn, would have provided a victory for Al Gore. Of course, you can't always count...
Candidate,Nader
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2004-00-26
Thursday, 26 February 2004 12:00 AM
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