Vice President Al Gore told reporters during a conference call Sunday that he had not “ruled out” the possibility of including Ralph Nader or other third party candidates in the upcoming presidential debates.
Gore said he believed the deadline for expanding the field in the debates had not yet passed, although the first debate was less than two weeks away.
Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush have agreed to spar in three debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, while Green Party Candidate Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan have railed against the commission for excluding them.
The first presidential debate is scheduled for Oct. 3.
“I have not ruled out revisiting the issue of the people who participate in the debate,” Gore said, adding that he did not believe “the commission has crossed the deadline for deciding” who will be included.
However the vice president did not explicitly endorse expanding the debate roster beyond the current two-candidate plan.
Nader’s deputy press secretary, Laura Jones, welcomed Gore’s statement, but told United Press International, “We would encourage Gore to reflect that in action by making a public statement in favor of including Nader” in the debates.
“If he were truly committed to open debates, he should make a public statement reflective of the will of 64-percent of the American people” who have said they would like to see Nader included in the debates, Jones said.
The CPD currently only extends invitations to candidates that have support of at least 15-percent of the electorate in public opinion polls. Jones pointed out that Federal Election Commission rules allow a candidate to qualify for federal campaign funding with only 5 percent in the polls.
Recent polls have pegged Nader’s national support at around 3-5 percent and Buchanan lingering at around 1 percent.
The Bush campaign could not be immediately reached for comment.