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Democrats Dismayed by Nader's Presidential Bid - 2004-02-23

Leaders of the U.S. Democratic Party are criticizing consumer activist Ralph Nader for his decision to run for president again.

Many Democrats accuse Mr. Nader of taking enough liberal support from Al Gore in the 2000 election to hand the contest to President Bush, especially in Florida, where Mr. Bush won by fewer than 600 votes.

The Democratic Party's national chairman, Terry McAuliffe, says Mr. Nader's decision to run this year is "unfortunate." But he predicts third-party vote totals will not have as much impact as they did four years ago.

Mr. Nader ran on the Green Party ticket in 2000, winning about three million votes nationwide. He said Sunday that this year, he will run as an independent,w hich could make it harder for him to get on the ballot in some states.

The Nader for President campaign says to get Mr. Nader on the ballot in all 50 U.S. states, it needs to collect 1.5 million signatures over the next few months.

Mr. Nader, who will mark his 70th birthday this week, said Sunday his main goal is challenging the two-party system that dominates American politics.

The national chairman of the Republican Party, Ed Gillespie, says he expects President Bush to win re-election in November whether or not Mr. Nader is in the race.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to deliver a major speech in Washington, D.C., on Monday, outlining his campaign themes to Republican Party state governors.

The two main contenders for this year's Democratic Party presidential nomination - Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Senator John Edwards of North Carolina - continue to campaign in the 10 states holding primary elections or caucuses on March 2, widely known as "Super Tuesday."

Three states - Hawaii, Idaho and Utah - are holding contests this Tuesday. But the candidates have largely ignored those events to campaign in larger "Super Tuesday" states like Ohio and New York.