Buchanan, Nader fight for chance to debate


Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan don’t agree on much, but they’re standing together in contending they both should be included in the presidential debates.

Both plan to be in Boston for the first debate Tuesday. However, they will be outsiders looking in, barred from a national forum that could have given their flagging third-party campaigns a boost.

Buchanan, the Reform Party candidate, and Green Party nominee Nader fell far short of the 15 percent support they needed in major polls, as required by the sponsoring bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.

“The citizens of this country will lose out … as Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush are allowed to sidestep issues and solutions,” Nader said today while campaigning in Concord, N.H.

Buchanan called the exclusion “a willful act of malice and discrimination.”

“It cheats the American people of the right to hear a candidate whose campaign they’re paying for,” he said in an interview.

Nader and Buchanan have received 3 percent support or less in recent national surveys. These same polls, however, show that a third or more would like to see a four-way debate, with Buchanan and Nader joining Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush.

The presidential debates sponsored by the commission – the others are scheduled for Oct. 11 in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Oct. 17 in St. Louis – have the potential to reach millions of voters and could be crucial in attracting people who might not be swayed through traditional campaigning.

“If you don’t get on national television, you don’t reach the voters, and if you don’t get in the debates, you don’t reach the voters,” Nader said.

Both Buchanan and Nader have used former wrestler Jesse Ventura to show how debates can influence elections. Ventura barely mustered 10 percent in Minnesota polls before participating in candidate debates in the gubernatorial election, which he won in 1998.

Either Bush or Gore could have pushed to include minor party candidates in the debates. They also could have pressed the major television networks to hold a four-way discussion, but in a race as close as theirs, “they want to go one-on-one against each other and not have a lot of distraction from third or fourth party candidates who might steal their votes,” said Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor.

Republicans learned their lesson in 1992, when Ross Perot got to debate Bill Clinton and President Bush. Perot ultimately earned 19 percent of the vote that November – possibly drawing enough GOP votes to cost Bush the election, many Republicans believe.

While neither Nader nor Buchanan planned to crash Tuesday’s event, both will make themselves available to reporters before, during and after to provide their analysis. The two also let protesters in Boston raise the fuss for them.

About 30 people, some dressed in colonial garb and tri-cornered hats, boarded the Boston Tea Party ship today and dumped televisions into the Harbor. Taped to the TV sets were the names of the networks and the Democratic and Republican parties.

“We’re not getting the whole story,” said Nader supporter Olivia Rue. “We’re just getting this little scripted thing.”

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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