Why a Nader Run is Bad for the GOP

by Mike on 2/25/2008

in Mob Rule

Nader voters are not necessarily Dem voters

Common wisdom blames Ralph Nader for swinging enough Florida votes to cost Gore the election in 2000. The underlying assumption that Nader drained votes from Gore is just that – an assumption. Nader got voters to the polls who, in all likelihood, wouldn’t have bothered but for Nader. In the days running up to the 2000 election, I wrote:

there are a great number of Nader supporters… who would rather shave their eyeballs with a rusty blade than vote for Gore. Nader, like Jesse Ventura, appeals to many who would stay home otherwise. Without Ralph in the race, that six, seven, or eight point margin doesn’t shift to Gore – it shifts position on the couch and watches the whole thing on TV.

In this cycle, Nader’s supporters – while far less numerous – are less likely to be liberal Dems than truly out-there Green fringers. The folks who prefer Nader to Obama in this cycle are probably further on the fringe than Ron Paul supporters, and likely to believe that there is no substantive difference between Obama and McCain. (I know, I know. Hide the sharp objects.)

Nader gives Obama cover on his biggest vulnerabilities

Besides the attack on his inexperience – which hasn’t worked for Hillary and won’t work any better in the general – Obama’s biggest liabilities arise from his substantive positions on the issues. He’s one of the most liberal members of the United States Senate – in 2007, he even beat out socialist Bernie Sanders for the title of most liberal senator – and has several key policy positions that could hurt him in the general.

But Ralph Nader gives him cover in two ways. First, he makes Obama look like a moderate. Obama is liberal; Nader is anti-capitalist. Obama wants to regulate our economy; Nader wants to burn it to the ground. Obama thinks corporations are useful if properly restrained; Nader thinks them the root of all evil. And have no doubt about it – there are enough idiot savants out there, who, despite supporting Nader, are clever enough to put together a viral YouTube campaign that stakes out the very far left for Nader… leaving the “left-of-center” label for Obama.

But won’t Obama’s actual liberal positions prevent him from appearing too moderate? Not if Ralph has his way, and that’s point number two: Nader gives Obama cover by attacking him from the left. Even though few will support Nader by voting for him, many will hear his message that Obama is “no different” from McCain. That message will reach some percentage of voters, perhaps some in swing states, and will help inoculate Obama from attacks from the right on his liberalism. The effect may not be large, if but if it resonates with a handful of voters in the right states just strongly enough to blunt the “Obama’s too liberal” charge, it’s not hard to see that it could decide the race by relieving the consciences of centrists who might not otherwise vote Obama. Stranger things have happened in politics.

How to handle a Nader run

The good news in all this is that Democrats still suffer from Nader Derangement due to his perceived effect on the 2000 race. They will do everything they can to keep him off the ballots, even though that will not blunt his message one bit. This can play to the GOP advantage, because it gives the GOP cover to lump Nader in with Obama. “Why are the Democrats trying so hard to keep Ralph Nader off the ballot?” the 527 ads could say. “They’re afraid of him draining liberal votes from their liberal candidate.” Perhaps follow up with a laundry list of how Obama and Nader are exactly alike in various positions they support. Someone with more skill than I can take that theme and run with it. But the one thing the GOP cannot do is what they are currently doing – gleefully sitting on the sidelines with buckets of popcorn watching the left do battle. Someone needs to remind the public that Ralph Nader and Barack Obama are two peas from the same lefty pod.

(Cross-posted at RedState)

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