Washington Ralph Nader wound up his protest campaign for the presidency Monday, dismissing as "foolish talk" the complaints of Democrats that a vote for his Green Party would be wasted or worse.
Nader encouraged all supporters to "vote entirely their conscience," whether they live in states with close races between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush or in states where one of the candidates is expected to win easily.
"The only wasted vote is voting for someone you don't believe in. The only wasted vote is when you stay home and don't vote at all," he said.
Nader hovers below 5 percent in national polls, but support for him is higher in some states where the race between Gore and Bush is close, including California, Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. Nader predicted his best showing today would come in those states, as well as in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
He expressed confidence he would get at least 5 percent of the vote, which would ensure his party federal campaign money for the 2004 elections.
Nader's role as a potential spoiler for Gore has put the longtime consumer activist under increasing pressure from Democrats who want him to drop out. But Nader dismissed that as "foolish talk."
"When the voter votes for a candidate, the voter votes for a candidate, period," he said. "I think it's very arrogant for Al Gore and his surrogates to run around the country disrespecting voters who want to vote for a viable third party."
Nader also predicted the Green Party would become the nation's third-largest party, replacing the Reform Party created by Ross Perot and now led by Pat Buchanan.