Ventura prefers third party over Bush or Gore

Tuesday, October 31st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Count Gov. Jesse Ventura among the nation's undecided voters.

With no plans to endorse a presidential candidate, and only a week left before Election Day, the Independence Party governor said he's having trouble finding someone to vote for.

It won't be Republican George W. Bush or Democrat Al Gore, Ventura said Tuesday.

``I would never vote for a Republican or a Democrat,'' he said on NBC's ``Today.'' ``I'm committed to the third-party movement. I'm committed that we need more choices than just the two we're offered.''

Even Ralph Nader, who shares Ventura's pedigree as a political outsider, is unlikely to get the governor's open declaration of support, though the two will share the stage for a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Minnesota, a state still up for grabs.

``He just is sticking with his decision not to endorse,'' said Ventura spokesman John Wodele.

Ventura said he was having trouble deciding his own vote between the third-party candidates because ``I'm a centrist, and there's nobody out there who's a centrist.''

Considering Nader too far left and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan too far right, Ventura said he would take a look at Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin to see where he fits in.

Ventura has talked personally with Bush, and Gore even spent the night at the governor's residence, but he is unlikely to give either one much more time before the Nov. 7 election. Ventura skipped Gore's Minneapolis visit Saturday to coach a high school football team in the state playoffs. He has no plans to appear with Bush during his one-day trip to the state Wednesday.

``I think his overall effect on the election is going to be pretty limited,'' said Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

Schier, however, thought Ventura's decision to appear with Nader a week before the election was ``quite significant,'' if only to Minnesotans.

In the closest contest in decades, Gore and Bush are battling for voters in about 15 tossup states, including Minnesota. A recent poll showed the Green Party's Nader cracking double digits in Minnesota, with Gore and Bush in a dead heat.

Green Party members hope Ventura's appearance with Nader at the University of Minnesota for the ABC program ``Nightline'' will give their candidate a boost in Minnesota and beyond.

The only thing voters should read into the joint appearance is that Ventura supports public financing of campaigns, allowing third-party candidates to participate in presidential debates and same-day voter registration, Nader said Monday night on CNN's ``Larry King Live.''

Ventura could help muffle the warning from some liberals that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush, said Nader spokeswoman Stacy Malkan.

Nader dismissed efforts Monday by supporters in swing states who are trying to ``swap'' their votes for the vice president with those in states where either Bush or Gore are expected to win easily.

``Stay out of commercializing this kind of vote,'' Nader said. ``Vote your conscience. Vote your dreams. Vote your interests. Don't vote your fears.''

Ventura has a similar message: ``If everybody votes their heart and conscience, there could be a surprise as to who wins now and then,'' he said. ``It happened in Minnesota.''