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Nader is said to consider a 2004 run

WASHINGTON -- Ralph Nader, the third-party presidential candidate many Democrats blame for their party's close loss in the 2000 election, is raising money to explore another run for the White House next year, one of his top strategists said yesterday.

The liberal consumer activist and two-time Green Party presidential nominee has reserved a website for the Nader 2004 Presidential Exploratory Committee. But it is still unclear whether he would run as a Green or an independent or run at all.

Theresa Amato, Nader's 2000 campaign manager and a director of his new committee, said Nader expects to make a decision by early next year.

"Calls are being made," Amato said. "A fund-raising effort has just started for the purpose of testing the waters."

Amato said Nader, who was out of town and unavailable for comment, had not yet filed organizing papers with the Federal Election Commission. That is normally a benchmark for politicians who say they are formally considering a race.

But interest in Nader's political plans is high following his impact on the 2000 election. That year, he drew 2.8 million votes nationwide -- 2.7 percent of the popular vote. Nader's share was an important factor in the photo-finish election in which Democrat Al Gore narrowly won the popular vote but lost the electoral college, and thus the presidency, to Republican George W. Bush.

For example, Nader took 97,488 votes in Florida, a state where Bush prevailed over Gore by 537 votes after a contested recount.

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