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One more time for Ralph Nader...

February 24, 2008 | 11:25 am

In perhaps the least surprising announcement of the 2008 campaign season, Ralph Nader told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning that he’s launching a campaign for president -- his fifth quest for the White House in as many presidential elections.

His statement came as a shock to no one: He hinted in early January, and implied in late January, that he would run.

(UPDATE: An update on reactions from around the political spectrum appears below.)

In 2004, campaigning as an independent, the longtime consumer activist got 465,650 votes (out of a total of more than 122 million). Four years before that, as the candidate of the Green Party, he was more successful, capturing 2.8 million of the 105 million votes cast. (He also ran a limited campaign as the Greens' candidate in 1996 and as a write-in candidate in 1992.)

His 2000 campaign earned him the ire of many Democrats, who...

blamed him for costing Al Gore the White House: Had Nader not been in the race, their argument goes, most of the 97,488 votes he won in Florida would have gone to Gore.

Instead, the race in Florida was far too close to call, and the recount ended up in the Supreme Court -– which ruled on the side of Gov. George W. Bush. The court's 5-4 decision stopped the recount with Bush ahead by 537 votes, and Florida’s 25 electoral votes put him in the Oval Office.

Not surprisingly, Nader -- who turns 74 on Wednesday and is the oldest candidate of any party in the presidential race -- doesn’t agree that he was responsible for Bush’s win in 2000.

“Mr. Gore ... would tell you if he won Tennessee, anything else being equal, he would've been president. It's his home state,” he told Tim Russert. “If he won Arkansas, everything else being equal, he would've been president. The mayor of Miami sabotaged the Democrats because of a grudge, didn't bring thousands of votes out. Quarter of a million Democrats voted for Bush in Florida. There is all kinds of thievery in Florida. So why do they blame the Greens?”

(UPDATE: Just as unsurprising as Nader’s announcement was the reaction to it.

“Well, there you go,” Barack Obama, campaigning in Ohio, told reporters, including The Times' Mark Z. Barabak. “He does it every four years. His view is, unless it’s Ralph Nader, that you’re not tough enough on any of these issues. He thought that there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and eight years later I think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking about.”

Obama, who worked for three months as a community organizer for a Nader-related group in New York after graduating from college, did praise Nader "for the outstanding work he did as a consumer advocate for many years.”

On Saturday he had even described Nader as "historically a singular figure in American politics ... a heroic figure." But, the Illinois senator continued Sunday, "his function as a perennial presidential candidate I don't think is helping put food on the table or deal with the issues that are so important to lot of working families.”

Hillary Clinton, flying from Washington to Rhode Island, told The Times' Michael Finnegan: "Obviously it's not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is, but it's a free country."

On the Sunday talk show circuit, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee -- who's still in the hunt for the Republican presidential nomination -- told CNN’s “Late Edition” that he was pleased: “I think it always would probably pull votes away from the Democrats, not the Republicans. So naturally Republicans would welcome his entry into the race and hope that maybe a few more will join in.”

“Fox News Sunday” heard from four governors who were in Washington for the National Governors Association meeting.

-- Minnesota's Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican: “I don't think any one party has a monopoly on who should be able to run or why they should be able to run.”

-- Virginia's Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat: “Well, I think it's kind of declining interest to the American public what Ralph says he's going to do.”

-- South Carolina's  Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican: “I suspect that Ralph suspects that it helps him more than anybody else.”

-- New Jersey's Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat: “I think the more interesting question is whether [New York Mayor] Michael Bloomberg gets in.”

Finally, Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant said: “It’s understandable why Obama considers Nader a ‘singular’ and ‘heroic’ figure: Both are left-wing partisans prone to putting rhetoric before reality.")

-- Leslie Hoffecker

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