Once again, there’s Ralph. The spoiler of 2000, the afterthought of 2004—what will be Nader’s legacy this time around? Democrats seem to have rallied quite strongly around Obama; the conventional wisdom indicates that few party faithful will jump ship on election day. Independents may be another story; a September Ohio poll shows that Nader has the support of 10% of independents (4% overall). 10% of the independent vote is fairly significant in a state that will be as close as Ohio. The Nader camp is making much of this poll, even though it is from early September; I would wager the polling landscape is significantly different today.
Nader has ballot access in all states except Texas, Indiana, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Georgia—in these states, Nader is running as a write-in candidate. Interestingly, the state of Oklahoma does not count write-in votes (there is currently a lawsuit going on to force Oklahoma to count write-in votes). Nader has cobbled together several strategies to get on the ballot in this many states. In some states, he is running as an independent, some as the Independent Party candidate (in states like New Mexico, one needs fewer signatures to qualify for ballot access as a new party versus an independent candidate). In California, Nader campaigned for, and won, the nomination of the California Peace and Freedom Party, which gave the Nader-Gonzalez ticket instant access to California’s ballot.
In addition to his traditional platform of corporate reform (now stunningly more forefront in the voters’ minds), Nader has carved positions that set him apart from the mainstream candidates—most notably, he supports single-payer universal health care, U.S. military disarmament, Bush-Cheney impeachment, carbon taxes (not a cap-and-trade system, but a direct tax), and categorically opposes nuclear power. He has, not surprisingly, been a vocal opponent of the bailout plan. The bailout has been a great talking point for all of the third party candidates—they uniformly oppose it, which is more in line with the public’s feelings. The most recent polls, however, show little movement in third party support.
It seems unlikely that Nader could prove to be the spoiler again; it looks more like 2004 than 2000 (for that matter, Bob Barr seems even less the spoiler than Nader—something the Democrats hadn’t hoped for, certainly).