DEMOCRATIC ACTIVISTS, many still seething over what they see as Ralph Nader's role in spoiling the election for Al Gore four years ago, have filed numerous court charges against the Green party candidate to try and keep him off the ballot this year.
Republicans, though, have said and done little about their potential spoiler, the Libertarian party's candidate for president, Michael Badnarik. Badnarik, a 50-year-old computer programmer from Texas who once ran for Congress and was nominated at the party's convention Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta.
Badnarik's polling shows him drawing his tiny number of supporters from both Bush and Kerry. Most, about two-thirds, are from the right side of the aisle. Others are liberal antiwar voters. And others still, are voters disgusted with both parties who would only vote a third-party ticket.
Third-party candidates haven't mattered too much in the popular vote since the days of Ross Perot. Nader is only polling around one percent nationally. Badnarik is roughly the same. But his campaign manager Stephen Gordon says Badnarik might have the opportunity to be kingmaker in several swing states.
Most voters will have access to Badnarik. He is on the ballot in 48 states and the District of Columbia. He is excluded only in New Hampshire, where the race is still tight, and Oklahoma, where it is not.
Nader made it onto the ballot in 35 states, but was left off in several key battlegrounds, such as Pennsylvania and--fortunately for the Democrats--Ohio. If the theory holds that most third-party voters whose candidate is not on the ballot, will then choose the candidate closest to their ideological persuasion, Democrats hold an advantage.
Most national polls include Nader but don't ask about the Libertarian candidate. Some state polls do though. In September, a Rasmussen poll gave Badnarik three percent of the vote in Nevada, and in August Rasmussen showed him taking five percent of the vote in New Mexico--both considered potential swing states.
In a horse race like this one, the numbers could prove significant. In 2000, Al Gore carried New Mexico with just 366 votes, about two-thirds of a percent. Moreover, in Nevada, though it is trending slightly Bush, Kerry's campaign benefits from efforts on his behalf by Senator Harry Reid.
"Badnarik could very easily have an impact on an election as close as this one," Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, an online publication that tracks third-party candidates says.
Badnarik's campaign recently purchased ads in Pennsylvania and Ohio where there is no Nader factor, and in other battleground states, including Florida and Wisconsin, where Nader is on the ballot. His campaign also has a market buy to advertise on Fox News Channel to attract more conservative voters, Gordon says. They are also looking to get an antiwar ad on CNN during these last days before the election.
Gordon says his candidate has been making inroads with a lot of groups: Muslim and Arab Americans who are opposed to the war, in particular. He recently spoke at the American Muslim Alliance in Orlando, where he agreed with the group's complaints about government-backed discrimination against those of the Islamic faith. He also won the endorsement of the Arab-American Republicans Against Bush a group of a few thousand, who say the Bush administration has eroded their civil rights.
Asked if he considers his party a spoiler for Republicans, George Getz, press secretary for the national Libertarian party says, "Bush and Kerry don't own anyone's vote. The people own their votes."
Rachel DiCarlo is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.