Nader unlikely to make impact

So, Ralph Nader, the regulation advocate cleverly disguised as a consumer advocate, is running for president. Again.

Democrats who thought he set things up for the 2000 election, when he ran as a Green Party candidate, to be stolen are gritting their teeth already, but the likelihood of the master manipulator of the media doing much more than adding a few colorful quotes to the general election process this time around seems limited.

For starters, Nader is not seeking the national nomination of an established party but will seek ballot access state by state, looking for a Green Party endorsement here, a Reform Party nod there, and perhaps an independent or populist party line elsewhere. Thus it will be difficult for him to be on the ballot in all 50 states, and therefore difficult to be a national factor.

In addition, insofar as turnout in primary elections is an indicator, Democrats are fired up this year and convinced that after eight years of George W. Bush, this is their time.
If Democrats were dispirited or notably dissatisfied with their candidates, many more of them might be tempted to swing toward Nader. But the Democrats this year will be the first major party to nominate either a woman or an African American for the top position, and that should keep interested those voters inclined to lean left.

Nader claims the major candidates in both parties have ignored issues like corporate crime, worker rights, military spending and foreign policy. To be sure, we’ve seen less serious discussion of military spending and foreign policy than we might have liked, but that seems to have been driven more by voter interest than candidate neglect. And the candidate who sounded most interested in corporate crime, John Edwards, never gained much traction among Democrats.

Of course, this has been the interminable election season that has proved all the pundits wrong at least a few times, from premature dancing on John McCain’s political grave to counting Hillary out before New Hampshire to the rise of Barack Obama over a passel of more-experienced contenders. So any prediction must be conditional.

Offhand, however, we suspect that if the Libertarian Party nominates somebody reasonably serious, it will draw more votes from the Republicans than Ralph Nader will from the Democrats.