TCS Daily


Nader Numbers

By Christopher C. Hull - February 26, 2004 12:00 AM

"Thanks Ralph!" That's what the GOP is saying, of course.

Let's stipulate that Nader will do less damage to the 2004 Democratic nominee than he did to Al Gore. The New York Times has editorialized convincingly that the stakes are higher this year than they were in 2000, for both parties. It's 2004 now, and it's clear that President Bush is a conservative leader and progressives are heavily mobilized to defeat him. As a result, the Times opined, anti-Bush voters will tend to shy away from voting for Nader.

But make no mistake, Nader just did a heck of a lot to assure Bush a 2004 victory. Al Gore gave away 2.73% of the vote to Nader; even if Nader takes a mere 1% nationally in 2004, John Kerry or whomever the Democrats nominate can't be happy about it.

Why? Look at what Nader polled in the closest states. We all know about the 1.63% Nader polled in Florida, which directly cost Gore 25 Electoral Votes. Nader also polled 3.9% in New Hampshire, which cost Gore 4 Electoral Votes. Considering Gore only lost by 5 Electoral Votes, that was bad enough.

But did you know Gore came within a miniscule 0.44% or less of losing states where Nader polled:

· 5.04% in Oregon, which nearly cost Gore 7 Electoral Votes

· 3.55% in New Mexico, which nearly cost Gore 5 Electoral Votes

· 2.23% in Iowa, which nearly cost Gore 7 Electoral Votes, and even

· .93% in Wisconsin, which nearly cost Gore 11 Electoral Votes

...for a total of 30 Electoral Votes -- more than in Florida and New Hampshire combined -- that Nader put at serious risk? And Nader polled a startling 5.4% in Minnesota, too, which Gore only won by 2.4%.

Finally, remember that last time Pat Buchanan ran, drawing some votes from Bush - he garnered 0.43 percent of the total vote, and almost certainly won't run again. Put that back in the Bush column.

It's not so much that Nader necessarily does a lot of popular vote damage to Kerry, or whomever the Democratic nominee may be. It's the Electoral Vote damage that matters. We won't know until very close to the election how much that is, but it may be enough to cost Kerry the election -- assuming Kerry isn't losing head-to-head at the time, of course. If the Democrat is winning nationally in a landslide, Nader's vote will likely increase, but the margin will not matter. The threat for the Democrats is in a tight race -- which most expect 2004 to be -- in close, swing states where Nader has a following.

What is certain regardless of Nader's vote total is that his run improves Bush's chances of reelection by some unknown increment. And for that, the Republican Party is certain to say, "Thanks, Ralph."


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