COLUMBIA -- The campaign of five-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader said enough signatures have been collected to get Nader's name on November's presidential ballot in South Carolina. But South Carolina political observers don't think Nader's run will have much impact here.
David Peyton, regional coordinator with Nader's campaign, said Nader's goal was to make sure Democrats and Republicans keep their promises to voters. "Without third-party candidates, we won't be able to hold the two major parties accountable," Peyton said.
"He stands by his principles. He's not going to back down. He's not going to let one failure stop him."
Nader has been a fixture on the presidential ballot, appearing on at least one state's ballot every year since 1992. Peyton said the campaign plans to petition Nader onto 45 of 50 states' ballots.
Many believe Nader spoiled the presidential bid of Democrat Al Gore in 2000, siphoning off votes of dissatisfied liberals who might have chosen Gore otherwise.
The former consumer activist's goal this time, Peyton said, is to keep the focus on less-discussed issues, such as air pollution in Charleston.
In 2004, Nader won just 5,520 votes of roughly 1.6 million cast in South Carolina. Observers said he would likely have little impact this year as well.
"I think Ralph Nader, with every passing year, makes less and less difference," said Carol Fowler, chairman of the state Democratic Party. "I don't see much discontent. ... People are pleased with our candidate (U.S. Sen. Barack Obama)."
Katon Dawson, chairman of the state Republican Party, also believes Nader will make little difference.
Even Ross Perot, Dawson said, could not deliver S.C. to a Democratic candidate. Since 1976, Dawson said, the state has been solidly Republican in general elections.
"Nader will probably be a marginal, but potentially vocal, challenge to the two major parties," said University of South Carolina political scientist Blease Graham.
But Graham said that in an open election with no incumbent, voters seem to be more likely to cast a protest vote. Disaffected voters, he said, often choose third-party candidates.
If any third-party candidate can have an effect this year, said Francis Marion University political scientist Neal Thigpen, it is more likely to be Libertarian Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia.
"Much of Obama's support comes out of that liberal elite wing" that typically supports Nader, Thigpen said. "The greater danger to a main candidate is Bob Barr."
Both agreed Nader's frequent runs for president might be eroding his support.
"Unless there is some short-term success in the third-party candidates," Graham said, "it really does seem to be diminishing returns."
To petition his or her way onto the S.C. ballot, a candidate must collect signatures from 10,000 registered voters. Nader's campaign submitted roughly 18,500 signatures Monday.
Noon today is the deadline for all petition candidates to file their signatures.
So far, Barr is the only candidate certified for the S.C. ballot. Parties have until Sept. 10 to certify their candidates.
Peyton said as many as 15 campaign workers spent time gathering signatures for Nader at libraries, parks and other public buildings. He estimated the campaign spent between $12,000 and $20,000 to gather the signatures.
The State Election Commission said it would send the signatures to county election offices for verification. That process will be completed no later than Aug. 15.