Nader Looms Large

Fans and foes of Ralph Nader's '04 presidential candidacy are in pitched debate about whether he should be in the race. But another question looms even larger: What impact is Nader having on the probable outcome of the election?

This question comes down to Nader's state-by-state impact in the Electoral College. As the 2000 election made painfully clear, a small number of votes in a tightly contested swing state can elect a president, regardless of who gets more votes in the country as a whole.

We have tracked all national and swing-state polling data since Nader announced his candidacy, and have just released an interactive tracking tool that shows, at a single keystroke, the best current estimate of the Electoral College outlook – with and without Nader's effect. Based on data from the non-partisan PollingReport.com, and using the most recent, most reliable "likely voter" poll available for each state, the findings are remarkable.

Nader's presence in the race is currently taking Kerry from Electoral College victory to a dead heat with Bush. As shown by the "Nader 04 Impact Map," at http://www.theunitycampaign.org/battleground/, Nader costs Kerry slight leads in Minnesota and Missouri, and gives Bush slight leads in Ohio and Nevada. No less crucial, Nader may also tip the balance in several states that are essentially tied (Iowa, West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Maine), where his support equals or exceeds the margin between Bush and Kerry.

These results will of course be controversial, despite our reliance on non-partisan data and professional polling best-practice. Polling is imprecise, and, as we continuously update the Impact Map with new polls, the outlook will continue to evolve.

But polling offers the best available evidence regarding our initial question. "What impact is Nader having on the probable outcome of the election?" On this question, the answer is clear. At this time, despite his low polling and lack of popular support, Nader's candidacy seems dangerously likely to tip the balance to George Bush.

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