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The Nader Vote

As everyone is presumably aware, Nader did not get the Green Party nomination last Saturday, proof perhaps that there is a God. Chris Bowers over at MyDD has an interesting post on how this impacts Nader's chances to affect the 2004 election. You should read the post, but his basic argument is that, without the easy ballot access and semi-legitimacy conferred by the Green Party nomination, Nader is toast as a serious factor in the 2004 election. Bowers asserts:

From now on, no poll that includes Nader should be taken seriously. Libertarian + Constitution now probably poses a larger threat to Bush than Nader + Cobb poses for Kerry. It is time for everyone in the Democratic Blogosphere to relax their sphincters and allow their blood pressure to drop. It is time we started paying Nader the attention he deserves in this campaign--none. To continue complaining about him would border on mental illness.

Ron Gunzburger over at Politics1 is somewhat less adamant but observes:

The Kerry folks must be thrilled knowing that now -- unlike the threat seemingly posed by Ralph Nader just a few days ago -- Nader will now only matter in a few key swing states (Florida and Michigan, plus maybe one or two others). Otherwise, the Green Party nomination of David Cobb on Saturday...gave ballot spots in 22 states to a candidate who plans to largely run a "safe states" strategy. Cobb's website states he "will focus his campaign on states neglected by the corporate parties, he has also said that he will visit and campaign in any state that invites him." In other Nader news, it appears that Nader on Saturday may again have missed the goal of obtaining Oregon ballot status in his second attempt. While more than the requisite 1,000 people attended the "short-cut" mass rally event -- thanks to help from two conservative GOP groups -- the Dems also filled some of the 1,100 seats to thwart Nader from collecting his needed signatures. Nader's folks only turned in 950 signed petitions, although some had multiple signatures. Presuming a few signatures are bad, as is always the case, Nader will have missed again. "It doesn't matter. We'll [still] get on the ballot," said Nader. At this pace, Nader appear likely to win spots on so few state ballots that he will struggle just to finish ahead of Cobb, Constitution nominee Mike Peroutka, and Libertarian nominee Michael Badnarik in terms of national vote totals.

I am inclined to agree that this decision by the Green Party drastically reduces the probability that Nader will be much of a factor this November. As regular readers of DR know, I have always been a skeptic that Nader would be much of a factor even if he did manage to get the Green Party nomination. But I am glad we will not have an opportunity to test that hypothesis.

I also agree with Bowers that it is time to stop taking those Kerry-Bush-Nader trial heats seriously. Arguably, Nader's best shot at influencing the election at this point is not through getting actual votes, but by keeping his name in the national and state trial heats and thus inflating perceptions of Bush's electoral strength.

Is that sad or what? There's a simple solution though (pollsters are you listening?). Stop putting his damn name in the trial heats.

Comments

Ruy,
Can you shed some light on what it is about the polls that causes Nader's number to range from 3-6% when he is included in the trial heats? Is this just static in the polls -- that is, would any third candidate with some name recognition be expected to get about that amount? Or do you think there is a latent Nader support that might be as high as 6% but that in the end will vote for Kerry? If it's the former, doesn't it raise some questions about the polls generally, if there is such a sizable factor that's just meaningless?

/Mark

I was under the impression that even the Reform Party ballot access in Michigan, Florida, Colorado etc. was being questioned due to the fact that that the Reform Party did not hold a convention, as required (they held a conference call).

I think the technically accurate phrasing is "Nader might have access in seven states through the Reform Party, but has not yet been placed on any state ballot."

If you can't convince the pollsters to take Nader's name off, is it possible to convince them to add a Libertarian/Constitution candidate (is there even one yet?) to the polls?

Nader's difficulties are good news. In the intermediate and longer run it will really help Kerry. I wouldn't even be surprised to see Nader drop out of the race now that he also has money problems. Despite his pride in seeing himself as the indespensible man of the left, he's not the kind of politician to run up a big debt and then walk away from it.

I am concerned, however, at this morning's news regarding Iraq. Bush was smart in pulling off the "turnover" in advance of the 30th. My ears pricked up though when I saw on CNN that Bush is now saying that Iraqi security is up to the Iraqis.

That makes me wonder if Bush's strategy de jour is to put our troops into safe compounds out of harm's way. In that way he can claim to be "staying the course" without incuring the casualties that bring down his poll numbers. It wouldn't do the Iraqis any good, but it would save the lives of American troops and improve his chances in November.

All of this should remind us that this election will be decided by events on the ground in theatres of conflict with militant Islam. For better or worse, those events are controlled by radical Islamists or George Bush. All John Kerry can do is seize on any opening or mis-step of Bush's. Not a good position to be in and it should help to explain Kerry's caution up to now.

Ruy, you command may well come true. Today's First Read from msnbc.com said: "at what point do three-way trial heats in national polls become a moot point?"

I haven't seen a serious analysis of Nader's appeal, even from a poll-oriented site like this one. Again and again, I see comparative polls where Nader appears to steal from BOTH Kerry and Bush... But the truth is that the appearance of Nader brings out voters who would not be voting otherwise... Perot voters, Greens etc. Nader does not steal from Kerry. Every minute spent on squashing him is wasted. Why not try to steal NADER's voters?

RE: "put our troops into safe compounds out of harm's way"

I don't think that will work. Without US troops on the streets keeping the peace, the situation there could rapidly descend into complete chaos. Bush is between a rock and a hard place there, and there's no easy way out.

I think the 'hide in the compounds' strategy will work pretty well and has been predictable for many months. Bush will not be hurt very much if Iraq descends into total chaos. This descent will barely merit mention in the news. There are 2 reasons for this:

1 - Most Americans don't care about Iraq very much, so new about Iraqi deaths won't sell papers.
2 - Chaos is dangerous (especially to Western reporters), so most reporters will stay out of the way.

I am afraid I disagree.
The real issue here is not whether Nader runs or not.
The real issue is, how many potential voters on the left does Kerry risk alienating by attempting to capture the swing soft belly.
Even if Nader is not there, many of these alienated voters may just decide to not vote, or vote Green, or who knows, Libertarian, if anti-war is a big issue for them.
This Nader-paranoia is taking the forest for the trees.
So, why specifically are some potential Kerry voters on the left considering not voting for him?
They consider that Kerry provides no real alternative plan on:
- the war in Iraq
- the war on terror
- Israel and Palestine
- the role of the US in International development.
And what they consider a too limited alternative on:
- universal healthcare
- worker rights
- tax regime
- gay rights, and many more.
Whether that is true or not is not the point. If, stopping for a moment to ostracize them, you spend the time needed to just listen to potential Nader voters, that will be their perception.
It is time to stop blaming them, or worse - blackmailing them, and to cater to them in the same manner that Kerry tries to cater to the swing voter. It's time for a bit of marketing...
Otherwise, and regardless of whether Nader will be there or not for them, they simply won't vote Kerry.

Nader could make more waves by adopting a more libertarian attitude to taxation, one that follows with his other kinds of populism.

To Mark Schmitt,

That's an easy one.

There are probably between 1% and 3% of voters nationwide who would actually show up on election day and cast a vote for a Ralph Nader if he ran as the Green Party's candidate. There are probably a similar number of people who will *say* they intend to show up on election day and cast a vote for a Ralph Nader (or a ham sandwich or whatever), rather than just admit they're not going to vote -- so there's also a certain Nader component in what we might call the "noise floor" of the poll.

The important thing is the real number of people out there who will actually vote for Ralph Nader, while small, is greater than zero. And if you ask enough people to get a meaningful sample of a population, you should be able to pick that up. The other thing to remember, of course, is that in a poll with a margin of error of +/- 3%, all the numbers between 1 and 6 (inclusive) are effectively *the same number*.

I couldn't disagree more! I think both sides realize Nader's influence in this election, especially the Republicans. In the words of Mike White, Director of the Oregon Family Council on why he was collecting signatures to get Ralph Nader on the ballot in Oregon"We aren't bashful about doing it. We are a conservative, pro-family organization, and Bush is our guy on virtually every issue." In the words of, Steve Wark, the Bush supporter largely responsible for getting Mr. Nader on the ballot in Nevada, when asked whether the addition of Mr. Nader to the ballot would help the President's hopes of victory in Nevada, "I would hope so. I didn't do it for my own health." The truth is in an election as close as this one the votes Nader takes away will matter. That's why the Republicans invest so much to get him on the ballot in every battleground state--literally. To see the facts on this Republican help go to http://www.thenaderfactor.com/press/072304/