NADER GETS INTO REPUBLICAN CONVENTION
AP- Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader crashed the Republicans' party Tuesday, dropping by Madison Square Garden just hours before the convention's evening session was to begin.
"I like to observe corporate orgies," Nader told The Associated Press. "I'm trying to undermine the Republican party in my own modest way."
Nader, who was at the convention to do an interview with CNN, said the network got him into the building. He reserved most of his ire for Republicans, describing as a camouflage the moderate speakers the party is showcasing.
"They're pushing the conservatives off the stage because they have a lot to explain to conservatives," he said, ticking off issues like "massive deficits" and "federal regulation of local schools."
Nader didn't spare the Democrats. He said he was at the convention to "provide a framework of criticism" that he said "the Democrats have taken a vacation from this week."
Later Tuesday, in a speech at Columbia University, Nader accused Democrats of engaging in "dirty tricks and intimidation" to keep him off the ballot in battleground states and said they were heading for a "mini Watergate."
"It's out of control and they're going to get caught," he said.
Nader was pleased though to have won a place on the ballot in Florida despite opposition from the Democrats. Florida election officials accepted Tuesday an application from the Reform Party to place Nader on the state's ballot, where four years ago his candidacy is widely believed to have cost Democrat Al Gore the presidency.
The Reform Party had endorsed Nader in May but waited until one day before the deadline to submit the application formally.
Democrats believe Gore would have carried Florida in 2000, and thus have won the presidency, had Nader not been on the ballot as a Green Party candidate. President Bush won Florida by 537 votes after five weeks of recounts that the Supreme Court ended by ruling against Gore. Nader received 97,421 votes, most of which Democrats say would have gone to Gore.
The Florida Democratic Party has promised to scrutinize Nader's ballot application for a possible challenge.
Nader also secured a place Tuesday on the ballots in Connecticut and Wyoming, but failed to win a spot in Massachusetts after state officials ruled he did not collect enough signatures and had defects in his paperwork.
So far, Nader is officially on the ballot in 13 states and Washington, D.C., and can appear on at least five others through his Reform Party endorsement. He has submitted petitions to be on the ballot in at least 15 other states, but has met with resistance from legal challenges filed by Democrats to keep him off ballots.
Democrats already have shut Nader off the ballot in several states, including Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Illinois and Pennsylvania, by uncovering irregularities in his petitions. Still, Nader is on track to appear on ballots in many of the battleground states where President Bush and Kerry are actively campaigning.
In his speech Tuesday night, Nader dismissed concerns that his campaign will siphon off votes from Kerry. "We're giving him plenty of water, but we can't make him drink," Nader said. "If he looked at our web site, he'd find ways to get more votes."