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Veepstakes Reaches Fever Pitch

They may rail against the two-party system, but even Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan had something to say about the potential Democratic and Republican picks for vice president.

Nader, the Green Party nominee for president and long-time consumer activist, doubted that Democrat Al Gore would select House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) as his running mate, presumably to stop Nader from siphoning off likely Gore votes.

"I don't think Dick Gephardt wants to be a vice presidential nominee. I think he wants to be Speaker of the House," Nader told CBS News' Face The Nation.

A Gephardt aide confirmed a report in Saturday's New York Times that the House Minority Leader all but ruled himself out of contention to be Gore's running mate. Aides to Gore have declined comment, citing the vice president's effort to keep the selection process as private as possible.

On Face The Nation, Nader explained why his own third-party bid for the White House could deliver the now Republican-controlled House to Gephardt and the Democrats, who are only a handful of votes away from a majority.

"If we get millions of votes as I'm sure we're going to for this Green Party presidential candidacy, a lot of people not seeing Green Party candidates running for the House because there are less than 10-percent of them in this new emerging party, they are going to vote for the Democratic member or Democratic challenger - and that will help Dick Gephardt get control of the House of Representatives."

And according to Nader, that sounds just fine to the man from Missouri, who wants the speaker's chair once occupied by such Democrats as Tip O'Neill and Sam Rayburn.

"I met with Dick Gephardt a month ago. I didn't detect he was displeased with the kinds of votes we'll bring out, especially non-voters, young voters, people who have been disenchanted," said Nader.

Gore brushed aside questions that Nader is cutting into his support, saying voters eventually will want to pick "between two stark choices" for president - himself, or Republican George W. Bush.

"I think in the final analysis, it is likely that most people will see this as a two-person contest and cast their vote on that," the vice president told NBC's Meet the Press.

Nader said he was not concerned what effect he might have on other candidates.

"I wouldn't be running if I were worried about taking votes away from Al Gore or George W. Bush," he told Face The Nation. "Nobody is entitled to votes." When asked which one of the two candidates he would vote for if he had to choose, Nader said he wouldn't vote for either Gore or Bush.

And Pat Buchanan, the Reform Party presidential contender who also appeared on Face The Nation, shared that sentiment, scoffing at the idea that he and Nader are political "poachers and thieves."

"The votes of the American people blong to them. If they vote for Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan, that's who their votes belong to," said Buchanan.

As for Bush's choice for the GOP's number two spot, Buchanan said the Texas governor is "blowing smoke" about possibly tapping a running mate who favors abortion rights, such as Pennylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, for example.

I don't think he is going to appoint a pro-abortion running mate," said Buchanan of Bush, who opposes abortion rights but has long said he won't use the issue as a "litmus test" for his vice presidential pick.

Buchanan predicted Bush "would have an explosion" at the Republican National Convention set to begin in two weeks in Philadelphia if he chose an abortion rights supporter for a running mate.

"I don't think he has the nerve to do it," said Buchanan. "My guess is that he will appoint a pro-life running mate."

About the fall presidential debates, Buchanan said, "If I were Al Gore, I think I would want to be with George (W.) Bush alone myself. If I were Mr. Bush, I would want Buchanan and Nader in the debates, if I wanted any debates."

As for the Republicans' upcoming gathering in Philadelphia, will Buchanan miss not being there for the first time in years?

"It will be a lot more boring without Pat Buchanan. I think even they would agree with that," said the social conservative commentator about his old party, the Grand Old Party.

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