Throwback Thursday: Ed Fallon reflects on endorsing Ralph Nader for president

Before #BernieOrBust or any other hashtag existed to convey some activists’ feelings about the Democratic Party’s establishment candidate, there was Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Iowa’s best-known politician to endorse Nader rather than Al Gore was State Representative Ed Fallon. The Des Moines Democrat had found himself at odds with the rest of his Iowa House colleagues before. Some of his politically inexpedient decisions have aged well, most famously his heartfelt speech before voting against our state’s Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

Supporting Nader caused more intense fallout.

Though Fallon no longer considers himself a Democrat and has devoted most of his energy lately to environmental activism, he still endorses some Democratic candidates, including Bernie Sanders before this year’s Iowa caucuses.

Fallon spoke with Bleeding Heartland recently about his decision to back Nader, how that choice affected his subsequent bids for public office, and his advice for activists drawn to Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein instead of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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Surprising results for minor-party presidential candidates

On the whole, Americans rejected minor presidential candidates. The nationwide popular vote stands at 66.3 million for Barack Obama (52.7 percent) and 58.0 million for John McCain (46.0 percent).

Out of curiosity, tremayne at Open Left reviewed the vote tallies for other presidential candidates:

530,200 votes: Ralph Nader

519,800 votes: Bob Barr

179,900 votes: Chuck Baldwin

147,600 votes: Cynthia McKinney

 30,800 votes: Alan Keyes (in CA)

 28,300 votes: Write-in/other

 10,500 votes: Ron Paul (in MT)

The Iowa Secretary of State’s office does not yet have the general election results on its website, and the Des Moines Register’s election results page only gives the numbers for Obama and McCain, but wikipedia gives these vote counts for Iowa:

818,240: Barack Obama

677,508: John McCain

7,963: Ralph Nader

4,608: Bob Barr

4,403: Chuck Baldwin

1,495: Cynthia McKinney

I am surprised that Nader got so many votes. That’s a lot less than he received in 2000 but at least 60,000 more votes nationwide than he received in 2004.

I also find it interesting that nationally, Bob Barr got three times as many votes as Chuck Baldwin, even though Ron Paul endorsed Baldwin. Maybe the “brand name” of the Libertarian Party is stronger than that of the Constitution Party, or maybe Barr just has more name recognition because of his prominent role in the Bill Clinton impeachment hearings.

In Iowa, Baldwin and Barr received approximately the same number of votes.

If any Bleeding Heartland readers have contacts in the Ron Paul for president crowd, please post a comment and let us know how the activists split among McCain, Barr and Baldwin.

UPDATE: A Bleeding Heartland reader compiled all the county results from Iowa and noticed something strange about Dubuque County. As he commented at Swing State Project, Dubuque County showed

quite a few votes for third party candidates and in some instances (La Riva/Moses) more than in the whole rest of Iowa.

I suspect there’s either something wrong with those numbers or they had some strange butterfly ballot.

Did anyone out there vote in Dubuque County, and if so, was the ballot design strange in some way that would produce an unusually high number of minor-party votes for president?

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Polls overestimating support for Nader and Barr

I encourage you to read this article by “mystery pollster” Mark Blumenthal about the level of support for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr. Blumenthal shows that historically, polls (especially summer polls) have overstated the level of support for third-party presidential candidates.

I still think that Barr could be a factor in a handful of states. The two I am watching most are Georgia (where Barr has high name recognition from the years he served in the U.S. House from a George district) and Nevada.

Ron Paul tied with John McCain in the GOP caucuses in Nevada, and the state has a history of relatively strong support for Libertarians (compared to the national Libertarian vote). In fact, Harry Reid would have lost his Senate seat from Nevada in 1998 if not for a Libertarian candidate who picked up a couple of percentage points.

Democrats have increased their voter registration edge in Nevada, and Barr’s candidacy could be one more thing that pushes this state toward Barack Obama.  

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Boswell radio ads mention Fallon's support for Nader

I wrote last week that Congressman Leonard Boswell’s closing argument is “I’m loyal, he voted for Nader.” A radio ad I heard in the car on Monday confirmed that impression.

I couldn’t jot down notes and have been unable to find an audio file of this ad on the web, but I will update this post with that information if someone can send it to me.

The ad used a female voice-over rather than Boswell’s voice. The first part of the ad relayed positive information about the incumbent:

-The teachers have endorsed Boswell because of his work on education.

-The nurses have endorsed Boswell because of his work on health care.

-Working families support Boswell because he stands up for them.

-Al Gore and Tom Harkin are also supporting Boswell.

Then the ad shifts gears with language about how it’s a different story with Ed Fallon. Fallon supported Ralph Nader over Al Gore in 2000. Because Fallon campaigned for Nader instead of Gore, Democrats have been stuck with eight years of President George W. Bush, with a lousy economy and an unending war in Iraq.

All of the above is a paraphrase based on my best recollection. If anyone else has heard this ad (or better yet, has a recording of it), I would love to post a more precise version of its contents.

On one level, I am not surprised that Boswell is talking about Nader in his radio ads, because that is clearly his trump card.

On the other hand, I expected Boswell to stick to all-positive advertising in broadcast media. Typically an incumbent does not go negative on a primary challenger unless there is some concern about the outcome.

By the way, on Saturday and Monday I didn’t receive any direct-mail from either Boswell’s campaign or the anti-Fallon group Independent Voices.

As far as I can tell, the Boswell campaign’s attempt to draw a contrast between Boswell and Fallon regarding methamphetamine got no traction in any Iowa mainstream media. Please correct me if I am wrong, and let me know if you have seen media reports on that issue in the past couple of days.

UPDATE: Boswell’s campaign manager Scott Ourth sent out his final mass e-mail yesterday. I’ve put the full text after the jump.

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Boswell's closing argument: I'm loyal, he was for Nader

I have not seen this ad yet, and I can’t find anything on You Tube or Leonard Boswell’s campaign website, but the Des Moines Register on Wednesday summarized a 30-second television commercial Boswell has started running:

OPPOSITION TO BUSH: Boswell, who is seeking his seventh term, highlights in the ad his opposition to proposed Bush administration spending cuts in college loan programs this year. Boswell, facing a challenge from former state Rep. Ed Fallon of Des Moines, has been criticized by some liberals for supporting some Bush administration proposals.

A LOYAL DEMOCRAT: The ad closes with a narrator saying, “Leonard Boswell, a trusted Democrat, always standing up for you.”

I’ll update this post with the video if someone can send me the link.

Good for Boswell for opposing spending cuts in college loan programs. (If he had been consistently willing to stand up to the Bush administration and the Republican policy agenda, this primary wouldn’t even be happening, but that’s another story.)

Also on Wednesday, I received a direct-mail piece from the Boswell campaign about Ed Fallon’s support for Ralph Nader in 2000. This is the third such mailing the campaign has sent out. The first two hit mailboxes in April, and I transcribed them here and here.

This mailing is similar in design, but it uses a normal font instead of that “scary font” that looks like it came from a ransom note, which appeared in the earlier two Nader mailings.

On one side, there’s a photo of the bottom half of Fallon’s smiling face, and this text (partly in white, partly in Hawkeye gold against a black background):

Ed Fallon opposed Al Gore in 2000

“If I had three hands maybe I could hold my nose, my gut and my mouth and vote for Al Gore. But in good conscience, I can’t, I won’t, and you shouldn’t either.”

(New York Times, 10/29/2000)

Fallon supported Ralph Nader instead…

The other side has large photos of Fallon’s and Nader’s faces next to each other. The text reads:

Ed Fallon Let Iowa Democrats Down by Endorsing Ralph Nader

Ed Fallon claims to be a real Democrat, but in 2000 he helped elect George Bush by endorsing and actively campaigning for Ralph Nader.1 The Bush presidency has been a disaster. We are mired in a War with no exit strategy and have an economy in recession with rising costs that are hurting Iowans. Ed Fallon now says it was a mistake, but his judgment let Iowa Democrats and our nation down–how can we trust him to represent our values in Congress?

1 Des Moines Register, 1/25/01, 11/18/00, 10/31/00

Enough Phony Politics. Say NO to Ed Fallon.

For several weeks a photo of Gore along with a quote supporting Boswell have been prominently featured on the front page of Boswell’s campaign website.

I’ve been saying all year that Nader is a strong card for Boswell to play, because it’s the only way for this incumbent who has repeatedly voted with Republicans and corporate interests to cast himself as a more loyal Democrat than Fallon.

I know people who are voting for Boswell solely because of Nader.

That said, many Gore voters like myself have decided that this isn’t a deal-breaker, in light of Boswell’s voting record.

I have no idea whether a third Nader mailing will push additional voters into Boswell’s camp. By now everyone politically active knows about this issue.

Final, unrelated point: Marc Hansen’s latest column on Boswell’s refusal to debate is funny.

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