WASHINGTON – Ralph Nader ended his campaign the way he started it, as a maverick figure with a pointed message and a shrinking base of support.

Down to 1 percent in early results Tuesday night, the independent candidate was well below his 2000 performance, when he won 2.7 percent of the national vote as the Green Party nominee.

Nader, who ran a left-wing campaign, wasn’t at all crestfallen Tuesday night, telling supporters at the National Press Club that “the Nader/Camejo ticket represents the future.” He contrasted himself and running mate Peter Camejo with the Democratic and Republican campaigns, which “represent the past.”

Instead of conceding defeat, Nader gave his anti-corporate, anti-two-party, anti-Iraq-war stump speech. “We are just beginning to fight,” he said.

Democrats, who charge that Nader’s 2000 showing in Florida cost Democrat Al Gore the election, succeeded in keeping him off the ballot in such key battleground states as Ohio and Pennsylvania. Nader prevailed in getting on the ballot in Florida, with support from the Republican secretary of state. He was on the ballot in 34 states this year, compared with 43 in 2000.

The suspicion, Democrats said, was that Nader drew support from Kerry, so Republicans were eager to help him get on the ballot. To many Democrats, that was a betrayal by someone who was essentially like-minded with Democratic positions.

“This campaign is the last desperate act of a man seeking attention,” said David Jones, spokesman for TheNaderFactor.com, a group of activists who joined to suppress the Nader vote in the battleground states.

The organization’s spirited campaign, through ads and personal contacts, telling Democrats that a vote for Nader amounted to a vote for Bush hit home with many voters. “The Nader “factor’ has been dramatically diminished,” said Chris Kofinis, senior adviser to TheNaderFactor, who was a top aide to Democrat Wesley Clark in his presidential campaign.

“He has a vision of America that isn’t there,” Kofinis said.

Nader, of course, doesn’t see it that way: “There’s no way the American people are going to let their country be taken over by global corporations who have no allegiance to this country.”

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