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AMERICAN MORNING

Ralph Nader Spoiler?

Aired February 23, 2004 - 07:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats say that Ralph Nader is just a spoiler for their candidate, but the consumer advocate brushed aside that criticism as he announced that he's going to make another third-party run for the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RALPH NADER (I), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: After careful thought and my desire to retire our supremely selected president, I've decided to run as an Independent candidate for president.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, how could this change the dynamics of the presidential race? CNN's political analyst Carlos Watson with us this morning with some insight.

Nice to see you. Good morning.

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you.

O'BRIEN: You say there are basically three scenarios as you see this playing out. What are they?

WATSON: I think the first is that Ralph Nader runs, runs a very determined race, but ultimately gets out. During the interview -- before the election. During the interview, Tim Russert put the question to him, and he kind of said, hey, maybe, but I'm not going to say now.

No. 2 is that he runs and he goes all the way. But you know what? A lot of Democrats say, we took a risk on you last time. We're not going to take a risk again. And you see his numbers go down. Remember that happened to Ross Perot. Perot ran in '92, got 19 percent, ran in '96 and got only 8 percent.

And last but not least, he tries to put forth an effort, but ultimately he runs but no one pays attention. He's kind of there, but he's in the background, gets less than half a percent.

O'BRIEN: So, by all of those scenarios, you basically discount the spoiler effect. You're saying he's not going to have a big effect, a big impact on this race at all?

WATSON: I think he's going to get much less of a vote than he would have gotten before. But the most important thing maybe he'll do is I think he'll bring new issues. Maybe the biggest and most explosive issue, I think he'll talk a ton about what he calls corporate corruption -- the Enron scandal, what's happened with Halliburton both in the country and overseas. I think you'll hear a lot about that.

O'BRIEN: There are people who support Ralph Nader, who say we don't support him for president. In fact, there is this group called Friends of Nader, and here is their statement: It's actually very brief: "Friends of Nader oppose his candidacy." Why do you think Ralph Nader is doing this?

WATSON: You know, a lot of people point to ego. They say, you know, he wants to be out there. He wants to be in the spotlight.

But Ralph Nader also argued -- and I thought argued somewhat convincingly on Tim Russert -- that there is a history of third-party candidates bringing up important issues from if you go back to the 1800s, abolition, women's rights, the right of young people to vote, go back to the last century, minimum wage and 40-hour workweeks. So, he argues that you need this kind of energy from a third party. You won't get it from what he calls a duopoly.

O'BRIEN: And we'll see, won't we? Carlos Watson, CNN's political analyst, thanks for joining us this morning. Nice to see you.

WATSON: Good to see you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you as always.

WATSON: Take care.

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