WASHINGTON – Consumer advocate Ralph Nader announced Sunday he will run again for the presidency, declaring that Washington has become “corporate occupied territory” and arguing there is too little difference between the Democratic and Republican parties.

“This country has more problems and injustices than it deserves,” Nader said, bemoaning a “democracy gap.” Nader, who turns 70 this week, said he wants to “challenge this two-party duopoly.”

“There’s too much power and wealth in too few hands,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Washington is now corporate occupied territory,” Nader said. “There is now a for-sale sign on most agencies and departments. … Basically, it’s question of both parties flunking.”

He decided against running under the banner of the Green Party. Nader’s candidacy four years ago has been blamed by many Democrats for costing Al Gore the election against Bush.

Prospects of Nader’s running again as a Green candidate divided the party ranks in Maine, where Nader won 5.7 percent of the vote – twice the national percentage – in 2000 presidential balloting. The Greens are officially recognized as a political party in Maine.

The Green Party of the United States welcomed Nader’s entry into the 2004 race as an independent, saying he “will take positions and raise issues of vital urgency,” according to a statement from the party.

The Green Party of the United States and its 43 affiliate state parties are preparing to back a Green nominee, not an independent or another party’s candidate, the statement said.

Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who has personally urged Nader not to run, said Nader would not have the same impact this time as he did in 2000.

“I can tell you Green Party members are all coming into the (Democratic) party saying they want to help us because they know the stakes are so big this time,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“It will be much more difficult for him,” McAuliffe said.

Republicans largely have declined to comment on any benefits a Nader candidacy would have for Bush.

“If Ralph Nader runs, President Bush is going to be re-elected and if Ralph Nader doesn’t run, President Bush is going to be re-elected,” Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie said on CBS”s “Face the Nation.”

At a Sunday gathering of governors in Washington, former RNC chairman Haley Barbour, now governor of Mississippi said: “It will make less difference than the Democrats fear, but I know they’re very nervous about it.”

Asked if he was getting into the race to be a spoiler, Nader replied: “A spoiler is a contemptuous term, as if anybody who dares to challenge the two party system .. is a spoiler, and we’ve got to fight that..”

“Let me say, this is going to be difficult,” said Nader, who planned a round of interviews after his announcement. But he also said, “This is not a democracy that can be controlled by two parties in the grip of corporate interests.”

Third party candidacies have been a greater part of presidential politics in recent years; businessman Ross Perot twice ran for president, winning 19 percent of the vote in 1992.

“It’s his personal vanity because he has no movement. Nobody’s backing him,” New Mexico Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson said.

As the Green Party’s nominee in 2000, Nader appeared on the ballot in 43 states and Washington, D.C., garnering only 2.7 percent of the vote.

But in Florida and New Hampshire, Bush won such narrow victories that had Gore received the bulk of Nader’s votes in those states, he would have won the general election.



Associated Press writer Robert Tanner contributed to this report.



On the Net:

Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee: http://www.naderexplore04.org

AP-ES-02-22-04 1311EST



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