Nader’s No. 2

Slate intern Alex Joseph sends in this dispatch on Ralph Nader’s press conference in Washington, D.C.:

Roughly two dozen reporters gathered at the National Press Club today to find out who will be Ralph Nader’s running mate in his fourth consecutive bid for the presidency. Nader has been in the race only a week, but judging from the attitude in the room, he has already overstayed his welcome.

Nader acknowledged his history with the reporters who showed up. When someone pressed him for specifics during a question, Nader laughingly reminded them that they of all people know he can give specifics. He even condemned Washington Post writer Dana Milbank by name for his negative columns (all but guaranteeing another one ), while Milbank sat in the back of the room smiling. It felt like an awkward college reunion, where a group of old classmates gathered grudgingly to reminisce on the good ol’ days.

The most interesting (a relative term) aspect of Nader’s press conference was his new running mate, Matt Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a young, articulate politician who made a name for himself by earning 47 percent of the vote as the Green Party candidate in San Francisco’s 2003 mayoral race. After graduating from Stanford Law in 1990, Gonzalez became a public defender. In 2000, he was elected to San Francisco’s board of supervisors. While Nader harped on how corporations run Washington, Gonzalez laid out three different priorities: election reform, poverty relief, and a quick withdrawal from Iraq.

Nader seemed to recognize Gonzalez’s appeal, at times deferring to him. At one point, Gonzalez tapped Nader on the shoulder while he was speaking, quietly insisting that Nader step aside and allow him to follow up. This may have been Nader’s best decision all afternoon: allowing a fresh face to engage a press corps that’s become increasingly tired of the perennial candidate.