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Florida GOP comes to Nader's aid

MIAMI -- Reviled by Florida Democrats as a spoiler in the 2000 presidential race, Ralph Nader has found a new ally: the Republican Party of Florida.

The GOP is coming to Nader's aid, suggesting that Democratic efforts to scrutinize his bid to secure a spot on Florida's presidential ballot fall ''beyond the bounds of hypocrisy."

Florida Democrats say they will pull out all the legal stops to see that Nader's bid for ballot access hews strictly to state law -- a tactic that the Republican Party of Florida chairwoman, Carole Jean Jordan, suggests is two-faced.

''Democrats are quick to use the issue of voter disenfranchisement to their benefit and yet have no problem unleashing their legal sharks on Ralph Nader," Jordan said Wednesday in a press release titled, ''Let Ralph Run."

The Florida Democratic Party chairman, Scott Maddox, said the party only wants to make sure that Nader legitimately qualifies for the Florida ballot. But the examination mirrors efforts across the country that Naderites say are designed to trip up the independent candidate as he tries to secure a spot on ballots across the United States -- a daunting effort complicated by the Green Party rebuff of Nader last weekend.

In turn, Democrats have accused Republicans of working to help Nader get on the ballot. The Nader campaign says it is unaware of any Republican assists.

Maddox said he just wants to make sure Nader does not cut any corners when it comes to appearing on the ballot in the state that decided the presidency in 2000 by a 537-vote margin.

Nader, who is running as an independent candidate, is not yet on any ballot in the United States, but has been endorsed by the national Reform Party and is considering accepting the nomination as a means to appear on the Florida ballot. His campaign long ago ruled out the challenge of gathering more than 92,000 signatures to appear on Florida's ballot, Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said.

In order to qualify for the ballot in Florida under a minority party banner, minority party candidates must be ''affiliated with a national party holding a national convention to nominate candidates." Nader was endorsed via a Reform Party teleconference call in May.

Nader is hoping to jump-start his independent presidential campaign with a new book.

In ''The Good Fight: Declare Your Independence & Close the Democracy Gap," Nader explores themes that will be familiar to anyone who has heard him: the power that large corporations wield over government, the toll of white-collar corruption, tax breaks that benefit the rich, and the increasing burden on America's working class.

ReganBooks, a division of HarperCollins, is the publisher.

Amy Baron, a spokeswoman at HarperCollins Publishing, said Nader will promote the book, including an appearance Sunday on NBC's ''Meet the Press" and book signings nationwide. She declined to say how many copies would be printed.

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