Consumer advocate Ralph Nader declared his intention to run for president as a third-party candidate this year, for the third time since 2000. Many Democrats blame Nader for siphoning enough votes from Al Gore in 2000, especially the 97,488 he won in Florida, to tilt the election to George Bush. Nader won only 0.3 percent of the votes nationwide in 2004. “Nader was a spoiler in 2000 and will long be remembered for that,” said Vanderbilt University professor John Geer. “But when he ran in 2004, few cared.” (Chicago Tribune, free registration)
What the commentators said
As someone who “endorsed” Nader in 2000 and “defended his right to run in 2004, said Marc Cooper in The Huffington Post, I am “chagrined by his incipient candidacy.” His “anti-corporate message should not be shrugged off,” but he has “absolutely no strategy.” Fair or not, the perception of him has gone from “tragedy” in 2000 to “farce” in 2004, and he’s “doomed to be pathetic” this year.
Sure, he may only “get a tiny percentage of the vote,” said Mike Allen and Ben Smith in Politico, but he will still be a “huge boon to Republicans” if it is a “close election.” Democrats and bloggers are already “reacting with fury” to Nader’s announcement, and the “immediate question” for the party is whether to be as “ruthless” now as it was in 2004 in blocking his “maneuvering” to get on state ballots.
Nader’s “quite rational” and knows he won’t win, said John Nichols in The Nation. But he is “a determined, sometimes unrelenting, truth teller,” and he knows “how to make himself heard.” He’s running because no other candidate could “reasonably” be called a “progressive,” and that includes Barack Obama. But at least Obama—unlike Gore or John Kerry—gets that it’s pointless to “grumble about Ralph Nader as a ‘spoiler,’” and rather more profitable to reach out leftward to progressives and independents.
That’s a poor strategy, said Ed Morrissey in Captain’s Quarters. With Nader running, “Obama can now point to someone running to his left as evidence of his moderateness.” Democrats can relax: Nader won’t have any impact on this election, “unless Hillary Clinton pulls off a miracle,” and his attacks from the left certainly “won’t hurt Obama’s prospects in the middle,” where he needs to beat John McCain. Nader’s presence might yet “provide a few laughs,” though, especially if Democrats again lose a close election and revile Nader’s “small roadbump” as a major blockade.