PORTLAND (AP) – Ralph Nader said Monday that Republicans fear his candidacy as much as Democrats do.

Nader, whose independent presidential candidacy on the Maine ballot was unsuccessfully challenged by the Maine Democratic Party, said his campaign appeals to Republicans and Democrats alike who are angry with the Bush administration.

Both parties, he said, want him off the ballot because he disrupts their grip on the political system.

Nader planned to be in Maine today for a press conference and campaign speech at the Peace and Justice Center in Portland before traveling to the University of New Hampshire and the University of Vermont.

His visit to northern New England is part of a five-day tour of the East Coast that began Monday in Massachusetts.

Nader has drawn fire from many Democrats who say his candidacy cost Al Gore the election in 2000. Running as a Green Party candidate, Nader got nearly 6 percent of the vote in Maine four years ago.

With polls showing a tight race between Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry this election, critics don’t want Nader to be a spoiler this time around.

But Nader says he doesn’t take votes away from one party or the other. Rather, he says half his supporters would not otherwise vote, and the other half are split evenly between Kerry and Bush.

John Baughman, a political science professor at Bates College, said the facts don’t support Nader’s claim.

“I think we might take that claim a little more seriously if Republicans were a little less gleeful about Nader’s candidacy,” he said.

John Eder, a Green Party state representative from Portland who worked on Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign, said he agrees that Nader draws from both major parties. But the race is so close that Nader’s presence could pose a threat to Kerry’s candidacy, he said.

Eder wanted to make it clear that Nader is running as an independent, not a Green, and urged Kerry supporters not to change their votes for Nader.

“It’s too dangerous for him to be here campaigning,” Eder said.

Baughman said Nader won’t be a factor in Maine’s 1st Congressional District, and it’s doubtful he’ll influence the outcome in the 2nd District race. Maine gives two of its four electoral votes to the statewide winner, and one to the victor in each of the state’s two congressional districts.

“I think what we tend to see in the polls lately is that he’s been running behind his 2000 numbers almost everywhere, and I think part of that is because of second thoughts Nader supporters had after the 2000 results,” Baughman said.

Nader, though, said his candidacy is about injecting new ideas into the political discussion. Small political parties, he said, have pushed ideas over the years on abolition, the women’s vote, trade union rights, social security and other issues that often are taken for granted today.

“In recent years, the major parties have sought to block political regeneration,” he said. “At the same time, they’re becoming more alike.”

Nader said the country is more polarized now than four years ago because “the Republicans have become very nasty.” Bush strategist Karl Rove and House Majority Leader Tom Delay of Texas are “off-the-charts nasty people,” he said.

“Democrats,” he added, “don’t have the energy to be nasty.”

Nader said he doesn’t project how many votes he might receive in any given state. He’s coming to Maine simply because “Maine is people.”

“The people are important,” Nader said. “I don’t differentiate between states. I go to states where I’m not even on the ballot.”

AP-ES-10-04-04 1735EDT

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