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Will Nader Matter?

Ralph Nader has announced that he will run for President again this year; I believe this is the fifth time, making Nader the Harold Stassen of the Left. To my surprise, Politico thinks Nader’s entry is significant:

Ralph Nader announced on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he’ll run as a third-party, anti-corporate candidate for president this fall, which would be likely to drain votes from the Democratic nominee and provide a huge boon to Republicans.

That would be nice, of course, but it doesn’t seem very likely. Let’s review the history. The two years in which Nader’s campaign has been other than a footnote were 2000 and 2004. In 2000, Nader may have made a difference. He received a (relatively) whopping 2,883,105 votes, representing 2.74 percent of the vote total. By 2004, liberals had learned their lesson. Nader got only 463,653 votes, or 0.38% of the total.
If you project the same downward trajectory for 2008, Nader would get a mere 74,185 votes, or .0532 of the total votes cast. Of course, Nader’s support might not continue to evaporate at a steady rate. But ask yourself, are liberals in 2008 more determined, or less determined, to win the Presidency compared to 2004? Moreover, a large majority of the voters still willing to waste their votes on Nader will no doubt come from states (New York, California) where the outcome isn’t in doubt. So in all probability, his impact on the outcome will be negligible.
It’s possible, of course, that there could be a state, like Florida in 2000, where the result is essentially a tie, like flipping a coin and having it land on its side. One can always envision a scenario where a handful of votes cast for Nader could make the difference. But such an outcome would be a fluke, and any number of alternative fluky scenarios are at least as likely.
So, many things could happen between now and November to tilt the landscape in the Republicans’ favor. But Ralph Nader’s candidacy is far down on the list.

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