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'Nader effect' spurs Demos to action

WASHINGTON — Democrats worried about the "Nader effect" in swing states are ratcheting up their efforts to lure voters away from independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader by highlighting the high-profile defections from his camp. Among them are actor Tim Robbins and the ultimate defector, Nader's 2000 running mate, Winona LaDuke.

With Nader polling at 1 percent to 2 percent in six of the states where Kerry and President Bush are in a dead heat — Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Iowa — activists are trying to persuade Nader sympathizers through ads and appearances to vote for Kerry or at least "trade" their vote with someone in another state.

"Polling numbers underscore that the election is in the balance," said John Pearce, founder of the Unity Campaign, a political action committee devoted to suppressing the Nader vote. "A million votes could easily tip the election."

On Friday, the group, which includes Robbins, announced a print ad campaign in swing states in alternative newspapers that are most likely to reach Nader supporters.

Nader, meanwhile, has rejected overtures to avoid battleground states or to end his campaign. He headed to New Jersey and New York on Saturday and the swing states of Michigan on Monday, Wisconsin and Minnesota on Tuesday and Iowa on Wednesday.

"I believe in a 50 state campaign," said Nader, who only qualified for the ballot in 34 states and the District of Columbia after an aggressive Democratic campaign kept him off ballots in such key states as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Shadowing Nader are activists from TheNaderFactor who try to talk people out of voting for him and distribute information showing how voting for Nader will help elect Bush. "It doesn't matter where he goes, we're going to be there," said David Jones, president of the group of Democratic activists. "It doesn't matter how poorly he performs, he can swing the election to George Bush."