Ralph Nader is back, and the consumer advocate says he's no spoiler.
"The two parties have spoiled our country," said Nader, who has launched another White House bid. "They're the real spoilers."
Some Democrats beg to differ, saying Nader won just enough votes in 2000 to deny Al Gore the presidency though they don't think he will affect this election, given his poor showing in 2004.
"People are simply not going to make that mistake again," said Chris Lehane, Gore's press secretary during the 2000 campaign against George W. Bush.
In a telephone interview, Nader said he is motivated to make a third-party run because no one else is addressing the corporate dominance in Washington. He called for a "Jeffersonian revolution" that would rein in the Pentagon, provide health insurance for all Americans and generate a "living wage" for all workers.
He criticized Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican John McCain on issues such as the Iraq war. "You don't get the sense that they're really going to get us out of there," Nader said. He said that is especially true of McCain, calling him "the candidate for permanent war and intervention."
Charles Black, senior adviser to the McCain campaign, called the 2000 result in Florida a "once-in-a-thousand-years scenario." Black added that there's no way to tell what would have happened if Nader was not on the ballot.
"I think he'll get less than 1% of the vote," Black said. "The odds of that being the difference in any one state are remote."
Lehane, describing himself a "Nader hater," mocked Nader's professed concern for the economy, the environment and the labor movement. "His being on the ticket in 2000 has caused the nation to go backward on each of those issues," he said. "It just comes down to a guy who's a megalomaniac."
In the 2000 race, Nader racked up 97,488 votes in Florida, dwarfing the 537 votes that separated Bush and Gore after a recount and controversial Supreme Court decision that stopped the Florida recount effort. Lehane also said Nader's presence on the ballot in 2000 forced Gore to spend more money and campaign in Oregon and Washington state than the Democratic nominee would have liked.
Nationally, Nader carried about 2.7% of the vote in 2000. Four years later, he won only 0.38% of the vote, though he was on the ballot in 34 states and the District of Columbia compared with 43 states and the district during the 2000 race.
Nader said Democrats fought to keep him off the ballot in key states in 2004, but he is ready to fight back this time. "I don't want to unfurl the white flag," he said.
Donna Brazile, Gore's campaign manager in 2000, said, "Democrats who are hungry for change" are more than satisfied with Obama or Clinton, leaving nothing more than "crumbs" for an insurgent such as Nader.
She jokes: "The only person excited today is John McCain, who will no longer be the oldest person in the race."
Nader turns 74 on Wednesday. McCain is 71.