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Nader to run for president as independent

Ralph Nader announces Sunday that he will make another White House bid.
Ralph Nader announces Sunday that he will make another White House bid.

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Judy Woodruff interviews Ralph Nader on Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET on "Inside Politics."
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President Bush is preparing an ad assault against Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.
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America Votes 2004: Presidential Race
Ralph Nader
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate, said Sunday he will run for president as an independent in the 2004 election.

"After careful thought and my desire to retire our supremely selected president, I've decided to run as an independent candidate for president," Nader said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Nader's announcement was widely watched by Democrats, many of whom blame him for siphoning off votes in Florida in the 2000 election that might have gone to Democratic nominee Al Gore, who lost the state and the overall election in a split decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The possibility of Nader allowing a Bush victory in 2004 by drawing votes from the left side of the political spectrum is troubling some Democrats.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, on CBS' "Face the Nation," called Nader's decision "very unfortunate." But he said he believes Nader's candidacy "will be different from 2000."

Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie told CBS that Nader's candidacy would make no difference to Bush's re-election bid. "If Ralph Nader runs, President Bush is going to be re-elected, and if Ralph Nader doesn't run, President Bush is going to be re-elected," Gillespie said. (More reaction to Nader announcement)

Nader said he is jumping into the race to "challenge the two-party duopoly" that he said is damaging American democracy. He lashed out against what he called the treatment of third-party and independent candidates as "second-class citizens."

Nader, who will turn 70 this month, ran as a Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000.

"The liberal intelligentsia," he said, "has allowed its party to become a captive of corporate interests."

Candidates stump as Super Tuesday looms

The two leading Democrats in the race for the White House campaigned Sunday in key battleground states with so-called Super Tuesday primaries approaching on March 2.

The front-runner -- Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts -- spent Sunday campaigning in Georgia. His chief rival, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, campaigned in New York and Ohio.

Those three states, along with seven others, hold Super Tuesday primaries or caucuses with 1,151 delegates up for grabs. It is the biggest single day on the Democratic nomination calendar, with contests in four of the 10 largest states: California, New York, Ohio and Georgia.

Three states -- Utah, Idaho and Hawaii -- will hold contests Tuesday, but those events have largely been overshadowed by the primaries and caucuses a week later.

The two leading Democrats targeted each other on their plans to expand federal health care insurance Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

Edwards said his plan is superior to Kerry's because, "His cost is dramatically higher than mine. I cover every single child," Kerry said. "In fact, I mandate that coverage. His does not."

Kerry disagreed. "He's dead wrong. The same people who helped me formulate my health care plan are the people who helped formulate the Clinton budget in the 1990s," Kerry said. "We crunched the numbers. We've been careful to look at the health care plan so that it fits within the numbers that you get as you push back and roll back the Bush tax cut for wealthiest Americans."

On taxes, both Edwards and Kerry targeted President Bush on "This Week."

Edwards said, "If you are listening to the sound of my voice and you earn less than $200,000, you will get a bigger tax break under an Edwards administration than you're presently getting under a Bush administration."

And Kerry defends against Bush's claims that a Democratic president would raise taxes. "When [Bush] says that Americans face a tax increase, once again he is not telling the truth," Kerry said. "Only the wealthiest Americans will have any possibility of an increase in my proposal, and it's not really an increase. It's rolling it back to the place where it was when he became president."

Bush not ruling out debate with Kerry

The Bush campaign is not ruling out the "face-to-face" debate requested Saturday in a letter from Kerry, a campaign official said Sunday.

"We look forward to vigorous debate on the important issues of the day with the eventual Democratic nominee," a Bush campaign official told CNN.

Kerry's letter challenged Bush to a debate on the impact of their experiences during the Vietnam War era on their current approaches to presidential leadership. Kerry's letter said, "This is not a debate to be distorted through your $100 million dollar campaign fund. This is a debate that should be conducted face to face." (Full story)

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