While most of the attention in this year's presidential election is focused on the battle between President Bush and his presumed Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry, supporters of consumer advocate Ralph Nader continue a nationwide effort to get his name on ballots. They are even mounting an effort in President Bush's home state of Texas, where Mr. Bush is all but certain of winning in November. But Nader supporters say they want to challenge the president on his home turf as part of an overall effort to change U.S. politics.
The Nader campaign wants the independent candidate on the Texas ballot partly because of the symbolism of running in the president's home state and partly because success here could boost their efforts elsewhere. Texas has the earliest deadline for petitions to include a candidate on the ballot - May 10. By that date, Nader supporters will have to have 64 thousand signatures on petitions. Campaign organizers say it is a struggle both because of the time frame and because of restrictions on collecting signatures in public places that they say have hampered their efforts.
But many political analysts wonder if the effort is worth it, given the fact that President Bush is likely to win the state easily in November. The Nader campaign's Ballot Access Coordinator for Texas, Jason Kafoury, tells VOA that, realizing the Bush advantage here, many Texans may find it more useful to vote for Mr. Nader rather than Senator Kerry.
"Unless there is quite an earth-shaking event, the president is most likely going to win and so this is a place where a lot of voters who realize that voting for Kerry is not going to be a winning candidacy are people who may stand with Ralph and vote for Ralph, if we get him on the ballot here, because they see it as sending a message that they do not like the way politics is being run as usual out of Washington," said Jason Kafoury.
Mr. Kafoury says many voters here in Texas and nationwide may stay away from the polls in November because the Republican and Democratic candidates offer no real change. He says the war in Iraq is an example of an issue that could work for Ralph Nader.
"Both Kerry and President Bush have maintained that they want to stay the course in Iraq and Ralph has put forward a plan for a six-month exit of all troops," he said.
Many Democrats are furious at Mr. Nader for running because polls show most of the two to six percent of the national vote he might receive would come from Democrats who might otherwise vote for Senator Kerry. Democratic leaders blame Ralph Nader for helping to elect George Bush in the very close 2000 presidential election by taking votes that might otherwise have gone to Democratic candidate Al Gore.
Even diehard Nader supporters like Jason Kafoury concede that their candidate has little chance of winning the election, but he says this is a long-term movement to break a two-party system that favors large corporations and entrenched political interests in Washington over the American people.