NADER-KERRY Relations

Mr. Nader, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2000, pledged to run as an independent in March and courted endorsements of the Green Party and the Reform Party. The Reform Party endorsed him, but the Green Party instead nominated longtime activist David Cobb. Without a convention of his own, Mr. Nader views the Democratic and Republican gatherings as ways to attract much-needed attention to his campaign. During the Democratic Convention, he expects to place an opinion piece in the Boston Globe on withdrawing from Iraq and other issues that Democrats won’t discuss at the convention. He will also appear on a major talk show, says Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese. “We’re still hoping for ‘Good Morning America,’ ” Mr. Nader says.

These days, Mr. Nader is getting more help from Republicans, who are eager to see the independent candidate siphon off Democratic votes in the fall. Last week, Michigan Republicans turned in more than 40,000 signatures to get Mr. Nader on the state ballot as an independent — all without the Nader campaign’s knowledge, Mr. Zeese says. Yesterday, the Nader campaign said it plans to file a federal lawsuit claiming the Reform Party’s ballot spot; if the case is successful, Mr. Nader wouldn’t need the Republican-gathered signatures.

Democrats argue that the Nader campaign, though flailing, could tip the balance for Mr. Bush if Mr. Nader is on the ballot in a few battleground states such as New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa, where ballot access is relatively easy. Mr. Zeese calls the Democrats’ maneuvers to keep Mr. Nader off ballots “an unprecedented attack on democracy.” On Monday, the campaign fought back, accusing the Illinois State Democratic Party of sending employees to contest Mr. Nader’s signatures. “It’s become clear that we can’t trust the Kerry campaign, and we’re not going to let these attacks on us go unchallenged,” Mr. Zeese says.

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RALPH NADER is scheduled to arrive in Boston tonight to attend a Veterans for Peace convention, a week before a prominent veteran will introduce John Kerry at the Democratic Convention across town.

Coincidence? Hardly. The antagonism between Mr. Nader and the Democrats has become so intense during recent weeks that far from shying away from the Democrats’ four-day fete, the independent presidential candidate is taking the fight to Boston and trying to cozy up to veterans — a group that gives Mr. Kerry not only welcome support but also credibility as a tough warrior.

Mr. Nader, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2000, pledged to run as an independent in March and courted endorsements of the Green Party and the Reform Party. The Reform Party endorsed him, but the Green Party instead nominated longtime activist David Cobb. Without a convention of his own, Mr. Nader views the Democratic and Republican gatherings as ways to attract much-needed attention to his campaign. During the Democratic Convention, he expects to place an opinion piece in the Boston Globe on withdrawing from Iraq and other issues that Democrats won’t discuss at the convention. He will also appear on a major talk show, says Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese. “We’re still hoping for ‘Good Morning America,’ ” Mr. Nader says.

While Mr. Nader says he is unlikely to drop by the Democratic Convention, he is considering a visit to the Republican meeting in New York in late August. “I’m trying to get Republican votes,” he says, suggesting he could win votes among moderate Republicans and Arab- Americans. In 2000, he paid a surprise visit to the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, where he schmoozed with the Florida and Michigan delegations before being escorted out the door.

Mr. Nader’s decision to show up in Boston hints at the tension between the Nader and Kerry campaigns, which has been growing since a friendly May 19 meeting between the two candidates. “The spring lovefest has ended, the gloves are off, and they’ve started swinging,” says Prof. Lawrence Jacobs, a specialist on third-party politics at the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

Mr. Zeese says the honeymoon ended right after the meeting, when the Kerry camp denied in interviews that the Iraq war had been discussed, and anti-Nader groups launched an offensive to keep Mr. Nader off state ballots.

Democratic consultant Jenny Backus says the hostilities intensified early this month, when conservative groups, including Citizens for a Sound Economy, began helping Mr. Nader gather signatures to get on state ballots, and donors to President Bush wrote checks to the cash- strapped campaign.

“It is disturbing to see these fat-cat Republicans propping up Ralph Nader’s campaign,” says Chad Clanton, a Kerry campaign spokesman. “They’re trying to cloud the big differences between Bush and Kerry, but it’s not going to work.”

These days, Mr. Nader is getting more help from Republicans, who are eager to see the independent candidate siphon off Democratic votes in the fall. Last week, Michigan Republicans turned in more than 40,000 signatures to get Mr. Nader on the state ballot as an independent — all without the Nader campaign’s knowledge, Mr. Zeese says. Yesterday, the Nader campaign said it plans to file a federal lawsuit claiming the Reform Party’s ballot spot; if the case is successful, Mr. Nader wouldn’t need the Republican-gathered signatures.

“The two parties are like King Kong provoking Godzilla with their charges and countercharges over our modest campaign. This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Mr. Nader says. “We’re going to withdraw figuratively and watch King Kong and Godzilla fight.”

Darcy Richardson, author of “Others: Third-Party Politics From the Nation’s Founding to the Rise and Fall of the Greenback-Labor Party,” says independents have traditionally used the nominating conventions to draw voters disenchanted with the major parties. Independent John Anderson showed up at the Democratic Convention in 1980 and found a vice-presidential candidate, Patrick Lucey, among disgruntled Edward Kennedy supporters, Mr. Richardson says.

Since Mr. Nader pledged to run as an independent in March, his campaign has been plagued by ballot-access woes — election law varies state by state, requiring 93,024 signatures in Florida and just 1,500 in Iowa, for instance. So far, Mr. Nader has filed signatures in eight states, Mr. Zeese says — but Democrats are contesting five of those. He recently missed deadlines in four states.

Democrats argue that the Nader campaign, though flailing, could tip the balance for Mr. Bush if Mr. Nader is on the ballot in a few battleground states such as New Hampshire, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa, where ballot access is relatively easy. Mr. Zeese calls the Democrats’ maneuvers to keep Mr. Nader off ballots “an unprecedented attack on democracy.” On Monday, the campaign fought back, accusing the Illinois State Democratic Party of sending employees to contest Mr. Nader’s signatures. “It’s become clear that we can’t trust the Kerry campaign, and we’re not going to let these attacks on us go unchallenged,” Mr. Zeese says.

Mr. Kerry, a Vietnam veteran who later protested the war, is playing up his veteran credentials at the Democratic Convention, giving the coveted prime-time introduction role to former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in Vietnam. The convention has an honorary veterans’ chairman for the first time, and Mr. Kerry’s national director for veterans, John Hurley, attributes Mr. Kerry’s crucial Iowa victory to veterans’ support.

But the veteran vote isn’t monolithic. Mr. Hurley says a little over 100,000 veterans out of 25 million are working actively for Mr. Kerry — with many of those millions of voters snubbing him because of his antiwar role in the early 1970s or because of his support for the war in Iraq.

“Some of us feel Kerry is not far enough in the antiwar camp, and we’d like him to come back home,” says Lee VanderLaan, the co-chairman for the Veterans for Peace convention.

Mr. Nader is a member of Veterans for Peace, Mr. VanderLaan says. Mr. Nader, who served at Fort Dix, N.J., in 1959, says that he once baked banana bread for 40,000 troops.

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