Perennial third-party candidate Ralph Nader predicted on Wednesday that President Obama's tax deal with Republicans will earn him a primary challenge in 2012.
Though he wouldn't rule out another presidential campaign himself, Nader, 76, said he hoped a new face would take up the progressive cause.
"I'm not foreclosing the possibility ... There are just other things to do," he said in an interview. "And it's time for someone else to continue. I've done it so many times. When I go around the country, I'm telling people they need to find somebody."
Nader, a consumer advocate, described the immense procedural difficulty — the "obstructions and litigations" — of appearing on the ballot in every state as a third-party candidate. He ran under the Green Party banner in 1996 and 2000 and as an independent in 2004 and 2008 and earned less than 3 percent of the overall vote each time.
He said Obama's decision to allow tax-cut extensions for the wealthy in the lame-duck deal betrays the progressives who supported his campaign in 2008 and called the president a "con man."
"There will be a primary," Nader said. "Just a question of how prominent a person [will run against Obama]. This deal is the last straw."
"Obama's position has been that the liberal, progressive wing has nowhere to go, therefore they can't turn their back on the administration. But a challenge will hold his feet to the fire and signal that we do have somewhere to go."
The tax deal, a blow to progressives, has prompted media speculation about such a challenge, although no names have been aired. Outgoing Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), one of the chamber's most reliably liberal voices, has said he's not interested.
"He [Obama] keeps one step away from the liberal progressive grasp," Nader said, describing the mood among on the left. "He's always just one step ahead from them grabbing his neck."
Nader had harsh words for the president's approach to politics: "He has no fixed principles. He's opportunistic — he goes for expedience, like Clinton. Some call him temperamentally conflict-averse. If you want to be harsher, you say he has no principles and he's opportunistic.
"He's a con man. I have no use for him," Nader said.
In the 2000 election, Nader was criticized for contributing to Al Gore's defeat by taking votes from the left. He said then and again on Wednesday that the progressive agenda must be on the national ballot every four years.
"These are majoritarian positions. The polling shows that. Living wage, single payer, cracking down on corporate crime. ... It's time for someone to continue this."