When Ralph Nader announced Sunday that he planned to run for president of the United States for the third time, political leaders across the country reacted to the news differently. The decision similarly drew diverse responses across USF.
Nader also announced that he will be running as an independent candidate and not a member of the Green Party, which nominated him for the last two elections.
John Duddy, president of the USF college Democrats, said he questions the reasoning of anyone who chooses to vote for Nader this year but said he is not as worried this year as he was in 2000.
“I think that, getting close to the election, (Democratic party members) are always worried about a third-party spoiler, but this year we are not nearly as worried as in 2000,” Duddy said.
Danielle Higginbotham, president of the USF College Republicans, said she disagrees.
“I think that the Democrats know that with Nader entering the race, the margin between President Bush and whoever is the Democratic nominee will be larger,” she said.
Nader said that he plans to run for president. Since the announcement on NBC’s Meet the Press, top Democrats have voiced opposition to Nader, whose candidacy, some felt, was the reason Bush won the presidency in 2000.
Nader, who managed only to earn about 3 percent of the vote that year, will be running for president despite opposition from Democrats and reported criticism from his close friends.
There is a “need for an alternative choice to the two major parties in the presidential race,” Nader said in a news release on his Web site, www.voteNader.org .
He also spoke to some who think his presence will only help Bush get re-elected.
“I urge the liberal establishment to relax and rejoice,” Nader told reporters at a news conference Monday. “This is a campaign that strives to displace the present corporate regime of the Bush administration.”
Those who refer to Nader as a “spoiler” note that in the 2000 election, Nader garnered 96,837 votes in Florida, where President Bush beat Al Gore by 193 votes after the recount to win the state and, ultimately, the election.
Though it is not expected, should Nader make the kind of impact he did in 2000, the decision to vote for Nader will face all Floridians, including students at USF.
There are a number of reasons college students might take note to the news of Nader’s campaign for the presidency, according to political science professor J. Edwin Benton.
Students are more in-tune with Nader because he squarely hits home for them, Benton said. Benton added that Nader’s attention to things like special-interest groups and big money attracts students, who are more ideological.
For instance, often students will vote for a candidate like Nader even though he won’t necessarily win the election, Benton said.
“Some students are more ideological and want to make a statement.”
“(After the 2000 election), obviously the Democrats are running scared,” Benton said. “I think silently the Republicans are … happy.”
Still others discount that Nader will have a significant effect on the election.
Political science professor Steve Johnston said Nader’s campaign is irrelevant and that he doesn’t buy the Democrats’ assertion that Nader cost them the election in 2000.
Johnston said the Democrats’ outrage over Nader’s decision to run is unjustified.
“They should have ignored him,” he said.
Johnston added that in 2000 Nader received votes that he won’t be able to count on in 2004. A focus on issues like the war in Iraq and Bush’s tax cuts, which have far-ranging implications for young college students especially, are pressing enough that those opposed to Bush will ignore Nader, he said.
And those who say Nader cost Gore the election in 2000 are wrong, Johnston said. He said he doesn’t buy Nader’s “spoiler” label, that he gave the 2000 election to Bush.
“Votes that went to Nader wouldn’t have necessarily gone to Gore,” he said.
But because this election is surrounded by different circumstances, Nader’s decision to run won’t change this election.
“Despite the initial attention (Nader is getting), it won’t make a difference,” Johnston said.