Monday, November 08, 2004

For All The Media Bluster, Don't Blame Nader

Don't blame Ralph Nader.

You could blame him in 2000, and at one point or another, many in the media predicted you'd blame him again in 2004. But when push came to shove, in spite of a steady media presence, Ralph Nader was a non-factor.

Nader received roughly 404,000 votes. Libertarian candidate Michael Badnarik, who received no media attention, received 376,000. Statistically, each candidate would up with 0.4% of the vote.

This was not what most people expected. Although Nader was barely polling 1% throughout the campaign season -- and only on 35 or so states in which he had qualified -- the conventional pundit wisdom was that in some states, Nader might poll 2% or 3% -- enough to potentially throw a state or two toward Bush. Heck, I was worried Nader would be a factor somewhere.

You had to figure Kerry was worried -- he was told enough times to be -- what with the steady flow of pundits out there looking at ways for Kerry to reach out to Nader voters, to embrace his "liberal" background (as they defined it), even to cut a deal.

Strangely, no one ever gave Badnarik that standing. There was no call for Bush to reach out to Badnarik voters. Perhaps that's because Libertarian Harry Browne polled a similar 0.4% in the 2000 election -- too small to really make a difference.

But what might have happened if Chris Matthews, Wolf Blitzer, Tim Russert, et al, had devoted even a smidgen of time to the possibility of fiscal conservatives moving away from Bush and his $400 billion-plus deficits and toward a "true conservative," such as Badnarik? Would that have ramped up the Libertarian vote count by a few hundred thousand?

What if there were reports of a potential groundswell -- don't forget, folks like Pat Buchanan were on the air as late as October talking about the possibility of not voting for President Bush. You had conservative publications, like The American Conservative, not endorsing Bush.

Would Rush Limbaugh have noticed? Would Sean Hannity have cared?

What if Air America, and Bill Maher, and Tina Brown, and all the "liberal media" types conservatives so hate, had been out there talking about the potential splintering of fiscal conservatives from Bush to Badnarik?

Sound far-fetched?

But in hindsight, isn't that what happened -- at least for a while, at least as a steady trickle of stories -- with regard to Nader? And Badnarik was on 48 state ballots. Nader didn't even crack 40.

Of course, if Matthews, Blitzer, Russert, et al, had not scared mainstream Democrats and Nader 2000 voters, maybe Kerry would have done worse. That's another "what if," I suppose -- just like the "what ifs" I've offered on Badnarik.

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