NEW YORK - Standing on the steps of Federal Hall just after noon on Thursday, Ralph Nader was the same familiar tall, rumpled, graying figure, fervently railing against corporate power and greed.
"There are no bailouts for the working people of this country!" said Mr. Nader, 74, addressing a crowd of several hundred people on Wall Street, a mix of cheering fans toting "Jail Time for Corporate Crime" signs, curious workers on their lunch breaks and bewildered tourists snapping pictures. "Just bailouts for the speculative corporations of this country."
In the $700 billion bailout plan for the financial system, Mr. Nader, now on his fourth presidential run, has finally found a real-life event to illustrate what he has made a cause of his career.
"Oh yeah, it's got everything," Mr. Nader said in an interview after the rally. "Taxation without representation, no public hearings. This is the worst yet, procedurally and substantively."
Mr. Nader continues to draw scorn for his role in the 2000 election, when many Democrats felt his long-shot candidacy destroyed Al Gore's chances of becoming president. But this time, some polls in critical swing states like Florida suggest he is drawing votes from Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee.
Mr. Nader has made his opposition to the bailout the cornerstone of his campaign, making appearances in nearly every state, largely under the radar of the national news media. His aides say he has sometimes attracted crowds in the thousands, especially in liberal enclaves like Madison, Wis., and in frontier states, like Colorado and Nevada.
The rally on Thursday was staged across the street from the New York Stock Exchange, where his campaign had set up a 31-piece band to play before his arrival, a large banner reading "Socialism Saves Capitalism" and a 25-foot-tall inflatable pink pig to drive home the message about corporate greed.
According to an article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2000, Mr. Nader sounded an early warning about the government-sponsored lending institutions known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The latest New York Times/CBS News poll showed Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, with a 14-percentage-point lead among likely voters in a head-to-head matchup with Mr. McCain, but when Mr. Nader was included in the question, the race narrowed, with 51 percent of those surveyed saying they were supporting Mr. Obama, 39 percent supporting Mr. McCain, and 3 percent for Mr. Nader.
In 2000, Mr. Nader received 2.7 percent of the nationwide vote, and in 2004, on far fewer states' ballots, only 0.38 percent.
This year, his campaign said he would be on the ballot in 45 states, everywhere but Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.