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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Will Nader ’04 Be More Like Nader ’00 or Buchanan ’00?

There has been quite a bit of consternation lately about an Ipsos-AP poll that showed Nader receiving 6 percent of the vote in a matchup against Kerry and Bush. Obviously, if Nader received support in this range in November it would be very bad indeed for the Democrats.
To which I say: relax everybody. Nader’s not going to get that kind of support and he’s unlikely to even match the support he received in 2000. In fact, I think his fate is more likely to be like that of Pat Buchanan in 2000, who also drew some early support in polls, but would up with very few votes (.43 percent) because his candidacy had no real constituency or plausible rationale.
Consider these data. In late 1999, when Buchanan, like Nader today, was the only third party candidate being tested in polls, he was drawing anywhere between 5 and 10 percent support when matched up against Gore and Bush. Then, in late spring, when horse race polling resumed and Nader was also included in the matchup, he dropped considerably, but was still drawing 3-5 percent support. Of course, by the time the election rolled around, even that support collapsed and he wound up with less than half a percent of the vote.
Obviously, almost all of that early Buchanan support was extremely soft and very easy for Bush to peel away once push came to shove and Republicans who were supporting Buchanan focused on taking back the White House. That’s going to be Nader’s fate in 2004: he may pull the early 4-6 percent here and there in polls (though hopefully most pollling organizations will choose to exclude this peripheral candidate without a party or likely ballot access in many states from their questions) but that support will be very, very soft, declining as the election gets closer and essentially disappearing on election day. In the end, a candidacy that lacks a distinct constituency and a rationale that even passes the laugh test (Kerry and Bush: no difference!) will receive the support level it so richly deserves–almost nil.
Actually, another finding from the Ipsos-AP poll is of more political signficcance than Nader’s 6 percent. Right now, just 35 percent of Americans say the country is going in the right direction, while 60 percent say it is off on the wrong track. That’s down from 44 percent right direction/52 percent wrong track last month and puts Bush in the serious danger zone for incumbents. And this poll was taken before Friday’s incredibly bad jobs report (just 21,000 new jobs).
In short, forget about Ralph and keep your eyes on the prize.

15 comments on “Will Nader ’04 Be More Like Nader ’00 or Buchanan ’00?

  1. Jonah Thomas on

    As near as I’ve been able to see so far, Kerry’s stand on the issues is exactly like Bush’s except that he thinks we ought to have some sort of health policy, and he isn’t ready to ban abortions or utterly ban gay marriages.
    I don’t think we have that much of a consensus in the voting public. If Bush and Kerry split the Bush vote, that leaves a whole lot of people to vote for someone else if someone else can get funding and organization.
    So people can pick Kerry or Bush depending on party loyalty, or whose eyebrows they like better. But it’s a sad state of affairs when that’s what we’re stuck with.

  2. wvmcl on

    I don’t think working for Nader is going to be a trendy thing to do this year. In fact, I think you would put yourself in serious danger of getting a face full of rotten tomatoes. This might cut down on the effectiveness of Nader’s campaign organization.
    Unfortunately, the Republican controlled media will probably give him as much media exposure as they can possibly get away with.

  3. john McCutchen on

    I have to disagree with my Good Friend Charlie Cook whose OP ED appears in today’s NyT….he ought to get out more often..,,,,
    If he’d come to visit us in San Francisco, specifically if he were here today, he could see Ralph Nader speak at SFSU.
    He and probably not too many others for I saw exactly two, Xerox’ed flyers…
    No enthusiasm at a place like State means Ralph is going to have a real hard time breaking 1%…Of course the poll that Charlie easily demolished showed him at 6%..and the Post Poll at 3%
    And read Ruy more often Chuck

  4. joseph on

    It’s a long, long time until November, guys. A little too early to be engaged in the practice of chicken counting. I think that these poll numbers are about as good as its going to get for Kerry. Once job numbers begin to improve, which they will, Kerry will go down in the polls. When Osama is caught, which he will, Bush’s numbers will rise.
    I feel for you, though. It’s not any fun to root for the stagnation of job creation or to tout the military endeavours of the current administration as failures.

  5. carsick on

    The more Nader is on TV the less impact he has is my observation.
    Plus, you need funding to pay for enough “volunteers” to collect all those signatures to gain ballot eligability. Good luck on that.
    Campaign finance laws will probably provide enough transparency that the republicans will be exposed if they try too hard to prop up Nader.
    No offense Ricky Vandal you may donate your time but the numbers Nader needs to be a player/spoiler won’t come without some cash to get the organization in the states that matter.

  6. Paul C on

    Rick, The people who are willing to subjet themselves and their families to the insults, privacy invasion and criticisms of politics seldom have the resume of Mother Theresa. Partly it is the reality of ambitious persons, partly it is what we get for allowing negative campaigning to work. Unfortunately, we have to treat it like sausage making. Enjoy the end product of environmental protection, human rights, more economic democracy etc. and don’t judge the politician by an unrealistic standard of purity. It really, really, really does matter who is in the White House, even if they have the blemishes of major personal ambition.

  7. Ricky Vandal on

    A lame deduction. A majority of the eligble voters do not vote. That is where Democrats should find voters. Trying to take Naders voters is nonsense. If they liked Cut and Run Kerry they’d vote for the backstabber.

  8. Ron Thompson on

    Following up on the Miami Herald poll, it shows Kerry leading Bush 49-43. Amiong Independents, Kerry gets 57% and Bush “a little over a third”. It’s a terribly-written story at http://www.miamiherald.com. Also shows that Graham or Nelson add nothing to the ticket, but that Bush is doing better than in 2000 among Hispanics, carrying them 56-40 (they broke about evenly in 2000, with Bush having a one-point avantage) So maybe Bill Richardson would be the best choice for Florida.

  9. precinct1233 on

    If I understand Florida law correctly, Nader needs 93,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, and he’ll have to have help from the Republicans for that, since he won’t have the Greens.

  10. rich on

    Nader will only make it onto the ballot in a relative handful of states. So, I don’t care if he’s polling 6 percent, because it won’t impact the race all that much.

  11. Billmon on

    “Florida is lost to Kerry.”
    Not so fast. This from today’s Miami Herald:
    Increasingly critical of President Bush on his handling of the economy and the war in Iraq, more Florida voters now say they plan to support Democrat John Kerry than to help reelect the president, according to a new poll.
    The Herald/St. Petersburg Times survey reveals striking vulnerabilities for Bush among key independent voters in the state that narrowly put him into the White House four years ago.
    More Florida voters disapprove of his job performance than approve, another sign of the president’s lagging popularity since the 2001 terrorist attacks transformed Bush from a polarizing figure into a popular wartime president.
    A majority of voters believe that the United States is ”moving in the wrong direction” under Bush — a marked reversal from two years ago, when 7 in 10 voters, including half of Democrats, approved of Bush’s job performance.
    (Unfortunately Nader is still polling 3% in the Sunshine State. Let’s just hope Ruy is right about that fading by election day.)

  12. Alejandro Andreotti on

    Thank you!
    I have no idea if you are right (though my lone brain cell and my gut tell me you are), but I’ll be able to sleep now.

  13. Angry Bear on

    I don’t see FL as remotely out of play in 2004, though I’d like to hear Ruy speak to that state. Interestingly, The Decembrist makes a decent case for Senator Bill Nelson of FL as VP.

  14. Libertarian on

    Buchanan is my guess. It was Florida that Nader cost Gore. Florida is lost to Kerry. What he will pick up in 04 will be Ohio and NH, in neither of which will Nader be a factor. The very type of state that will be closer for Kerry will be a type that will not have much of a Nader factor.
    Kerry is going to sweep the old North, save Indiana, which was sometimes referred to as Klandiana. The political forces are pushing the Dems in the direction of being the Party of the North, the modern day heir of the Party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. It is a unified base that can be held together. This in-between is what is killing them at times. Resistence is futile. They should accept their destiny as such a party.
    The Dems can hold onto the Louisiana seat with Chris John. What they need is more Northern seats so that they do not have to rely on the Southern states, forcing the GOP to rely on them more heavily. Once the parties again become one for the liberal, individualistic North and one for the conservative statist South, although the reverse of 1860, politics will become more civil and more will become involved in elections and party activities.
    We need to defeat them one more time. Show them that Lee’s surrender cannot be undone!


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