KANSAS CITY, KAN. Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, venturing Thursday into Kansas and Missouri, has a message for his backers.
"Don't let anybody tell you you're supporting a spoiler," Nader told a group of about 25 people at a hotel in Kansas City, Kan. "Everybody is trying to get votes from everybody else, so either they're all spoilers or nobody is a spoiler. When they say you're a spoiler, they're saying you're a second-class citizen."
Democrats repeatedly have asked Nader to end his bid for the presidency, afraid that in a tight race he might pull votes away from their nominee, Sen. John Kerry, and help Republican President Bush.
Nader warned that Democrats were headed for a "mini-Watergate scandal" with the "dirty tricks" he said the party was using to sidetrack his campaign, such as backing ballot challenges and intimidating petition gatherers.
In Missouri, Secretary of State Matt Blunt's office last week said the Nader campaign didn't get enough valid signatures to satisfy state law.
During a stop Thursday at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., Nader said he would meet today's deadline for an appeal. If unsuccessful, he would consider filing paperwork to become a write-in candidate, he said.
"We think we have more than enough signatures to get on the ballot," Nader said.
The former consumer advocate found out Thursday that na elections panel in Iowa dismissed a challenge that had threatened to keep him off the ballot in that state as well.
Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for the Missouri Democratic Party, said his organization hadn't tried to stop Nader from getting on the ballot and called Nader's claims "obvious desperation."
"He didn't have the support to get on the ballot here in Missouri, even though the requirements are low," Cardetti said.
Besides Missouri, Nader also has been tossed from ballots in Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and North Carolina.
Jesse Borjon, a spokesman for Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, said Nader had not yet filed paperwork to be included on the Kansas ballot. To appear on the ballot, Borjon said, Nader would have to be certified by a qualifying political party as its presidential nominee.
In 2000, Nader was on the Kansas ballot as an independent candidate.
Before meeting with supporters, Nader told reporters that he was pushing issues that the Republican and Democratic parties refused to touch, such as immediately pulling troops from Iraq, eliminating tax loopholes for corporations and reducing their influence on campaign financing and governmental regulation, as well as providing universal health care.
"The people are losing more and more control over what is important to them," he said.