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Will Nader Challenge Dodd?
Could Ralph Nader reprise his spoiler role at the expense of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)?
The consumer crusader, perennial presidential aspirant and Winsted, Connecticut native says lots of people are asking him to run for the Senate against Dodd in 2010 -- and he isn't saying no just yet.
"You can't believe the number of people of asking me [to run]... Right now I'd say I'm agnostic," Nader told me earlier today, asked about rumors he'd run an independent, siphoning off liberal votes Dodd needs.
"I'm totally neutral, but I'm hearing the same things you are hearing."
The 75-year-old Nader is still registered as a voter in the state, making him eligible to run, according to the elections division of the Connecticut Secretary of State's office.
Nader says he first heard the idea back in April, when Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer editor Keith Burris penned a column urging "Run, Ralph, run," and blasting Dodd for his role in the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.
Nader's entry as a third party candidate would be terrible news for Dodd, who is hoping to energize his liberal base in possible match-ups against GOP challengers Rob Simmons and Linda McMahon, who lead him in public polls.
Nader says he personally likes Dodd and met with him more than six months ago for an hour in hopes of getting the Senate banking chairman to sign off on Nader's plan to create an independent Financial Consumer Assocation, which Nader thinks is needed to keep mutual fund managers and pension executives honest.
Dodd was sympathetic and said he would look into it -- but the commission wasn't part of the legislative package Dodd introduced earlier this week. Nader, whom many Dems blame for delivering the '00 election to George W. Bush, says Dodd's bill was a good start, but lacks teeth on regulating derivatives and other financial products.
"Nothing in the bill would put the screws to the heads of the pension or the mutual funds," Nader said. "I'm trying to get Dodd to do the right thing... Right now, they are not serious" about tightening regulations, he said of Senate Democrats.
He said his focus, at the moment, was on bolstering the reforms, not electoral politics.
Nader also faulted Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who first introduced the financial consumer association idea as a House member 24 years ago, but has been silent on the issue this year.
"Schumer graduated Harvard Law School years after I did, and now he's not returning my calls," Nader added with a chuckle.
"I guess he thinks he's a big shot."