Kerry and Nader to Meet Wednesday

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Presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry is sitting down for a much-anticipated meeting with independent Ralph Nader, but there's little sign they'll alter this year's political dynamic when they get together.

Nader is making it clear he won't leave the race, and Kerry isn't likely to overtly ask him to do so.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Nader said he looked forward to discussing "certain common policies."

"I think that's for the good of our country and for the benefit of the American people that are being ignored or repudiated by the Bush regime," Nader told the AP.

Nader was endorsed last week by the national Reform Party, a move that gives him access to the ballot in at least seven states, including the battlegrounds of Florida and Michigan.

Senior Kerry aides have concluded there's little chance of convincing Nader to leave the race. While senior campaign aides were still sifting through their strategy, aides said Kerry was likely to make the case that the two rivals share a goal of ousting Bush and a joint effort is the best way to go about that.

Emerging as an issue was the war in Iraq, where Nader is seeking to rally anti-war sentiment.

"You can't have a discussion without talking about the war in Iraq," said Nader. He has been critical of President Bush and Kerry for not outlining a plan to withdraw U.S. troops.

Kerry has been campaigning with former rival Howard Dean, who made opposition to the war central to his campaign. Dean has warned that a vote for Nader only helps Bush.

While Kerry voted to authorize the use of force in Iraq, he has been critical of Bush's prosecution of the war.

While Nader and Kerry camps have been seeking the meeting for some time, it developed quickly and top Kerry aides were meeting deep into the night Tuesday and on Wednesday to map their strategy, said officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

The relationship between the two camps is delicate, with some fearing heavy pressure to exit could stiffen Nader to stay in the race.

Kerry's advisers argue that the liberal Nader drains votes mainly from Democrats and could end up tipping the balance to Bush.

Many Democrats argue that Nader cost Al Gore the White House in 2000, draining just enough votes from Gore to give Bush the closest president election in history. Nader dismisses that suggestion, saying Gore was a poor candidate.

Kerry has said he plans to reach out to Nader backers.

"I respect him. I'm not going to attack him in any way," Kerry said last month. "I'm just going to try to talk to his people and point out that we've got to beat George Bush. ... And I hope that by the end of this race I can make it unnecessary for people to feel they need to vote for someone else."

Kerry's campaign also was releasing a campaign study on soaring gasoline prices, showing the average family is paying $593 more for gasoline since Bush took office, a total of $2,102 a year. Families with teens were hit harder, seeing their costs grow by $834 a year.

Gasoline price spikes have cost farmers $1.3 billion, airlines $7.5 billion and the trucking industry $6.3 billion, the study said. Those prices have soared by 43.5 percent in Michigan, and 38 percent in Pennsylvania, the study said, breaking the hikes down by states to offer ammunition in key battleground states.


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