DEARBORN, Mich. - Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate running for president on the Green Party ticket, returned to Michigan yesterday to stump for votes in a state where his presence on the ballot may make the difference in the race.
Dismissing a claim by Democrats that Mr. Nader's liberal platform might siphon votes away from Vice President Gore and lead to a victory by Republican George W. Bush, Mr. Nader said that “you can't spoil a political system that is already spoiled to the core.”
Calling Republicans and Democrats too similar and too indentured to special corporate interests that they cannot pursue policies that benefit average Americans, Mr. Nader pledged never to engage in the “cash register politics” that have led the two major parties to seek large soft-money contributions from corporate contributors.
“Both Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush cannot talk about getting the big money out of politics because they are both marinating in it,” Mr. Nader said.
“We have raised 1 per cent of the money and received 1 per cent of the media attention, but we are getting 6, 7, and 8 per cent of the support in some polls,” he said. “This is going to be the first great leap forward to establish the largest third party in America.”
About 500 people heard his speech at the Dearborn campus of the University of Michigan, cheering wildly as he condemned abuses of the political system.
To counter the idea that a vote for a third party candidate would be wasted in what is expected to be a close election, Mr. Nader said that “it seems to me you should vote your conscience, your dreams, and your hopes,” he said.
Students seemed receptive to his message. Holly Tackett, 24, a student at nearby Henry Ford Community College, stopped to hear him speak.
“I'm not completely satisfied with the other two candidates, and I want to make an informed decision,” she said. She is not persuaded by the Gore campaign notion that Nader supporters should cast ballots for the Vice President to defeat Mr. Bush.
“I thought that way at one point, but I would rather know I voted for a candidate I was comfortable with,” she said.
Chris Marchione, a 21-year-old student at Wayne State University, said of Mr. Nader: “I like him. He says what he feels. He's not afraid of anyone and he's not owned by anyone. Voting for Ralph is saying that I'm not satisfied with the major party candidates.”
Mr. Nader stands at 4 per cent in Michigan, a tracking poll commissioned by The Blade shows. Because the state is up for grabs in the race for president and because the state is among a handful that has become key to Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore, the Nader candidacy could determine who becomes the next president.
Mr. Gore pleaded with thousands of people gathered Sunday for a campaign event at Macomb Community College to abandon the Green Party and instead support him. His mention of the dangers of a split liberal vote has become a mainstay of the Gore campaign speech, as Mr. Nader holds significant numbers in the polls of several states that may be important in the election.