WASHINGTON (AP) _ Supporters of Al Gore fear that in the close race for president, third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader could take away votes from the vice president, thereby handing victory to George W. Bush.
Many Gore supporters are loudly calling on Nader to step aside, including some longtime allies. Environmentalists, organized labor, gays and abortion-rights groups _ liberals and Democrats who once admired Nader's tenacity as a consumer crusader _ are now dedicated to stopping him from hurting Gore.
Attacks against Green Party candidate Nader are mounting from those once closely aligned with his progressive views but now angered by his refusal to yield in closely contested states where a vote for Nader could mean a victory for Republican Party candidate Bush.
Nader admonished the Democratic Party for ``dirty tricks'' used to undermine his candidacy, saying Wednesday in Madison, Wisconsin, that they were led by ``desperate surrogates of the Gore campaign.''
The dispute has grown bitter, mainly over Nader's insistence that there's no major difference between the major-party candidates, Bush and Gore.
``That's absurd. Ludicrous,'' said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization.
Cook said he had publicly and repeatedly criticized President Bill Clinton and Vice President Gore on numerous issues ``and they deserved it.'' But a Bush administration would bring ``excruciating consequences,'' he said in a letter to Nader.
``Virtually everything the environmental community has achieved over the past thirty years could be at stake,'' Cook wrote.
Nader was urged to drop out of the race in another letter sent Wednesday by George Becker, president of the United Steelworkers of America.
While referring to themselves as ``steadfast allies,'' Becker warned Nader against continuing to claim few differences between Bush and Gore.
Any advances made in workers rights, achieving a living wage or eliminating corporate influence in government would be reversed if Bush wins the election, Becker said.
``It would be tragically ironic if your dedication to principle should ultimately result in the further domination of our political process by the very forces of corporate greed that we have both worked so hard to restrain,'' he said.
Many women's groups also are unhappy with Nader.
Overall, Nader remains dismissive _ and sometimes amused _ by the appeals for him to drop out.
In Wisconsin, he allowed that he believes the vice president is a bit better than Bush _ Nader offered grades of D-minus to Bush and D-plus to Gore.
If Gore loses, Nader said, ``it would be clear he beat himself.''