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Nader says his issues key to Kerry win

WASHINGTON -- Ralph Nader says his advice could help his rival, Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, get elected.

Nader, interviewed yesterday on CNN's ''Late Edition," said Kerry is ''getting free consulting from this campaign. We are putting on his desk twice a week issues that could win if the Democrats are smart enough to pick them up."

The latest issue letter, which Nader distributes by e-mail, concerns a living wage.

Nader, who is running as an independent in this year's presidential campaign, said 47 million people make less than $10 an hour -- ''Wal-Mart wages," he called them -- and urged Democrats to make it an issue in the campaign.

''They've got to get to the level where they can sustain themselves and a minimum standard of living," said Nader, a longtime consumer advocate who sought the presidency under the Green Party banner in 2000.

Democrats blame him for Al Gore's loss to Republican George W. Bush, but Nader says Gore is to blame for the defeat.

Asked whether he would drop out if he were to conclude that staying in the race would hurt Kerry and guarantee Bush's reelection, Nader said he would not.

''No. Of course not," he said. ''You don't run a presidential campaign nationally and say to your volunteers who have worked their heart out sometime in October, well, sorry."

Nader also said he hasn't been able to schedule a meeting with Kerry. Both men have said they want to sit down and discuss the campaign. ''I've been trying to meet him now for two weeks and we haven't been able to get even his campaign manager to return the call," Nader said.

Meanwhile Kerry aides said yesterday they were still seeking a meeting Nader. ''The Kerry campaign still plans to meet with Ralph Nader," one campaign official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. ''With so much at stake and areas of mutual concern like the environment and health care, there are plenty of reasons to keep progressives focused on defeating George Bush."

Patrick Healy of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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