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Nader announces presidential run

Ralph Nader said Sunday on NBC's
Ralph Nader said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Washington has become "corporate-owned territory."

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Stay with CNN-USA for reactions and analysis all evening to the Ralph Nader candidacy -- and for live updates on the run-up to Tuesday's primary in Utah and caucuses in Hawaii and Idaho.
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CNN's Candy Crowley on Ralph Nader's announcement of a run for president.
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CNN's Kelly Wallace on John Kerry's challenge to President Bush for a debate.
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CNN's Dan Lothian on John Edwards' message about jobs and trade.
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Tuesday, February 24: Hawaii, Idaho Democratic caucuses; Utah primary

Sunday, February 29: Puerto Rico Republican primary

"Super Tuesday," March 2: Primaries in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, Georgia; caucuses in Minnesota

When is your primary? For more key dates in the 2004 election season, see our special America Votes 2004 Election Calendar
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Many political season observers will pay special attention Monday morning to Washington news conference planned by Ralph Nader to discuss his ideas for his 2004 presidential candidacy.

Nader's announcement Sunday that he will run for president as an independent in 2004 was described by Republicans as unimportant and by Democrats as "very unfortunate."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation," called Nader's decision "very unfortunate." But he said he believes the candidacy by the consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate "will be different from 2000."

"He is not running as a Green Party member," as he did in 1996 and 2000, McAuliffe said. "And I can tell you, Green Party members are all coming into the party saying they want to help us because they know the stakes are so big this time. It will be much more difficult for him."

For his part, 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. "We're going to run on the president's strong and principled leadership and his positive agenda for a second term."

On the presidential campaign trail, a spokeswoman for Democratic front-runner Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts put a positive spin on Nader's announcement.

"We hope that those who want to see change in America, and to return to a track of prosperity and progress, better health care and new and better jobs, will unite behind the Democratic nominee for president -- whoever that may be," said Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

Kerry himself had braced for the possible decision, telling reporters on the campaign trail in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, "I think I'm going to have a campaign that will speak to those people who ... supported him last time. This is going to be a different campaign this time, I assure you."

A campaign aide for Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, also looking to win the nomination, told CNN on Sunday, "If you have a Democratic nominee who can attract all kinds of voters -- progressives, moderates and dissatisfied Republicans -- Democrats will win the White House in November.

"John Edwards has shown that he attracts voters from across the political spectrum and that's why he is the best candidate to take on Bush," the aide said.

Nader said he is jumping into the race to "challenge the two-party duopoly" that is allowing Washington to be "corporate-occupied territory."

"After careful thought and my desire to retire our supremely elected president," Nader said on NBC, in a reference to the Supreme Court decision that settled the 2000 presidential race, "I've decided to run as an independent candidate for president."

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

Washington is "corporate-occupied territory," Nader said. "We need more political and civic energies inside the campaign to challenge this two-party duopoly that's trending toward one-party districts all over the country."

Nader made clear his desire to help force President Bush out of the White House. He said he supports impeaching the president for "misleading" Americans about the Iraq war and "fabricating" reasons for taking military action. And he accused Bush of being "a giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being."

More than a dozen people who supported Nader in 2000 protested his move Sunday outside the building where Nader's "Meet the Press" interview was conducted. Several held signs saying "Unite against Bush."

But another group, about the same size, supported Nader's stance that his entry is a move against a "two-party duopoly" that is leaving lawmakers unaccountable to voters. Standing right near the protesters, this group held signs saying, "Let the debate begin."

In December, Nader said he would not run for the Green Party nomination in 2004. That decision means he will have to go through the process of getting ballot access in all 50 states as an independent, a daunting and expensive task.

Nader said Sunday that he does not know in how many states he will be able to get his name on the presidential ballot. Either way, he added, "there are 40 slam dunk states where Republicans or Democrats will win handily."

In the 2000 race, Nader won less than 3 percent of the vote nationally. But many Democrats are convinced he tipped the election toward Bush because the president's margin of victory in two states -- Florida and New Hampshire -- was smaller than the number of people who voted for Nader.

Had Gore carried either of those states, he would have carried the Electoral College and won the presidency.

However, it is impossible to know what those Nader voters would have done if he had not been in the race. Nader himself insists that "Gore beat Gore" and that many of his voters would have stayed home or voted for Bush if he had not been on the ballot.

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