Need to run still exists, Nader says

Correction on 08/06/08 -- The name of independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was misspelled in a headline on Page 2B of Tuesday’s Review-Journal.

Ralph Nader is running for president again, just like he did last time and the time before.

The message has not changed, but Nader, who was in Las Vegas on Monday for a news conference and luncheon with supporters, believes his anti-corporate creed still needs a champion.

And so the 74-year-old activist doggedly continues trying to get the word out.

"We have many redirections, solutions and agendas that are ignored by John McCain and Barack Obama," Nader said, reciting in a near-monotone. "We're the ones who are for single-payer (health care). ... We believe in a living wage, which tens of millions of workers in this country do not have. ... We believe that there should be a six-month deadline for withdrawal of all U.S. military and corporate forces in Iraq."

The group of about 15 people who came to see Nader at McCormick & Schmick's, the Las Vegas location of a national seafood restaurant chain, applauded.

Nader, a pioneering consumer advocate who rose to prominence crusading for car safety in the 1960s, is still defending himself from the charge that his 2000 presidential campaign, on the Green Party ticket, attracted voters who otherwise would have chosen then-Democratic nominee Al Gore and thus cost Gore the election to President Bush. Nader essentially has said it is on Gore for not getting those votes.

Undaunted by the anger of many on the left especially, Nader ran again in 2004, this time as an independent candidate, and received three-tenths of 1 percent of the national vote, down from 2.74 percent in 2000. In Nevada, Nader got 2.5 percent in 2000 and 0.6 percent in 2004.

This year, Nader hopes to be on more ballots than he was in 2004, when legal challenges in many states thwarted his ballot access. In Nevada, his supporters have collected more than 12,000 signatures, and the secretary of state's office has approved him to be on the general election ballot in November.

"By early September, we will be on 45 state ballots," Nader said Monday.

As with Bush and Gore or Bush and 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, Nader said this year's Democratic and Republican choices, Obama and McCain, are unacceptable.

"Both John McCain and Barack Obama are corporate candidates," he said. "They overwhelmingly vote the corporate policy line."

Obama, he said, has supported the credit card industry and supports caps on medical malpractice damages, and "he has had a mediocre Senate career when it comes to associating himself with the injustices, deprivations and poverty of the lower 100 million Americans on the income scale."

McCain, he said, "who had a sort of independent streak, decided about six months ago that he was going to become a clone of King George the Fourth" and reversed his former stands against tax cuts for the wealthy and against offshore drilling.

"So you can see the pull of corporate power on both of these candidates," he said. "As they get closer to the vote of the people, they are standing with the power and greed of corporations."

Nader's sense that voters ought to recognize that he is right and gravitate to him rather than to the major parties and their hundreds of millions of dollars in candidate marketing can turn to scolding. The current state of the campaign, he said, is "a reflection on citizens who don't take enough time and put enough energy into their political and civic activities."

"If we don't put more time into our civic and political activities, these giant corporations will tear the heart and soul out of America, as they are doing on the installment plan. They have no allegiance to our country (but) to control it or abandon its industries and jobs," he said.

Political expert Larry Sabato, director of the Institute for Politics at the University of Virginia, said Nader, once an admirable figure, has come to illustrate that "there really is such a thing as overstaying your welcome."

He predicted that Nader will get even fewer votes this year than he did in 2004, as most voters have lost patience with his perpetual candidacy.

One of Nader's fans at Monday's luncheon, 27-year-old limo driver Mike Hull, said he admired Nader for his long record of activism and for presenting "a different viewpoint, outside the two-party system."

But Hull said he wasn't sure he would vote for Nader: He didn't want to throw his vote away.

"I know how morally corrupt it sounds, but honestly, I want to see how well he does."

Contact reporter Molly Ball at or 702-387-2919.