WASHINGTON — Independent Ralph Nader, 74, the oldest candidate in the 2008 presidential race, says he's found a new generation of supporters.
On the ballot in 45 states, Nader thinks he'll have his best showing in his three tries for president this Election Day. He's now polling at 3 percent nationally and higher in some states — 4 percent in Colorado and Missouri.
Nader, whose electronic skills are deeply ingrained in the 1950s, has embraced New Media. He has become a fave on YouTube with two bits with the shapely Obama Girl, with whom he's shown sharing an office.
"We thought it would be a little spice, a little change of pace," Nader said in an interview. "It was an attempt to get more people to get on the (campaign) Web site."
In the video, a long piece of tape divides the room, the desk and the phone, as Nader is bent over his typewriter and Obama Girl sits at a computer. The deadpan Nader asks where he can see her videos and starts typing the web address as she tells him, "It's not going to work on that thing."
Nader says he knows that because, after all, "who do you think I am, John McCain?" The video has been viewed more than 200,000 times.
While Nader never touches a computer in real life, his campaign has become sophisticated in online organizing, fundraising and agitating, and he even did an Oct. 25 campaign stunt — making 21 campaign speeches in one day in order to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Nader said he has to do these things to get attention because he faces a "media blackout," with scant attention from television and newspapers. Obama Girl, model/actress Amber Lee Ettinger, who still supports Democrat Barack Obama, helped out to try and get Nader into the presidential debates.
"Every national poll wants me in the debates," said Nader. He claims that if weren't for the "two-party dictatorship" keeping him out of the debates, "it'd be a three-way race." The Commission on Presidential Debates was established by the two major parties.
Nader's anti-establishment, anti-corporate message resonates with young people, who dominate his Washington headquarters and his 35 field offices.
Ben Drendel, 22, Nader's national field coordinator, was a Hillary Clinton delegate in Colorado earlier this year. He remembered a speech that Nader had given where, "he said it's necessary to have a third party to keep the two parties honest. That was really powerful." Now Drendel thinks he's convinced his "hard-core Democratic parents" to vote for Nader.
Nader thinks that Wall Street's near-collapse and the $700 billion federal bailout have given him some oomph.
"This is wild casino capitalism that brought down millions of people's livelihoods," he said. "My predictions have come true — about Fannie Mae, about Freddie Mac, about Wall Street. We have more credibility than ever."
Nader opposed the bailout, which Obama and McCain supported, especially because it didn't institute extensive re-regulation of the markets.
He even had a rally at the New York Stock Exchange with thousands of people — and a large inflatable pig — but he characteristically complains that he didn't get much media coverage.
"What's my crime?" he asks. "Persistence? Stamina? Having done more for the American people in 40 years than McCain or Obama?"
Nader is clearly more relaxed than he was in 2004 when, in his first independent run, he had to fight Democrats state-by-state to get on the ballot. (He made the ballot in 34 states.) Many were angry that in 2000, when Nader was the nominee of the Green Party, he siphoned votes from Democrat Al Gore.
In 2000, Nader received 2.8 million votes, for 2.74 percent of the popular vote. In 2004, he was down to 463,653 votes, or less than a half percent of the popular vote.
With most polls showing Obama with a lead over McCain, Nader is not likely to be a spoiler this time. And he predicts that Obama will win — in a "landslide" — and be "a corporate president."
ON THE WEB:
MORE FROM MCCLATCHY