Christine Stuart photo

Following a book signing at the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford, Green Party darling Ralph Nader was asked if he would challenge U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd for his seat.

“Well, it’s premature,” Nader said. But in the same breath he also acknowledged the increasing interest from folks that would support his involvement in the race.

While he seems to be interested in a run, Nader, 75, was careful not to tip his hand Friday during a brief media availability prior to his talk.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the magnitude in the last few days,” Nader said. “But it’s hard to evaluate. You don’t know whether it’s just a lot of dissatisfaction with the incumbents or the willingness of people to really work in 169 towns in Connecticut for a new breed of political representation in Washington.”

“We have to prove to him people want to participate,” Tim McKee, a member of the national Green Party, said. He said supporters have to show Nader how enthusiastic they will be, how hard they’re willing to work, and how much money they’re willing to raise.

Christine Stuart photo

McKee described as a truly grassroots effort the push to get Nader to seek the U.S. Senate seat.

Erica Champion, a West Hartford resident, said she’d rather see Nader run against Lieberman. And Bruce Johnson of West Hartford asked as Nader signed his book if he would consider running for president in 2012.

“It’ too early,” Nader responded.

Vic Lancia, who collected signatures for Nader’s 2000 presidential bid, said he’s retired, but his legs are still good and he’d be happy to get out there to collect signatures for the U.S. Senate race.

In order to qualify as a candidate, Nader’s campaign would have to collect 7,500 valid signatures to get on the ballot. That means he’d probably have to collect 15,000 signatures because some would be thrown out, McKee said.

“We have to share with him that there’s a real groundswell of support,” McKee said.

The first 100 people in line to hear Nader speak Friday received free tickets to the event. About 30 people waited in line for Nader to sign their books. He asked each one of them what they did for a living.

At the moment, Nader said he’s just absorbing a lot of the feedback before he makes a decision about running. Meanwhile he has encouraged those running for the Senate to make the rules of the Senate, including the 60-vote supermajority, an issue in their campaigns.

“The Senate itself is the block that is at the core of the paralysis of Washington,” Nader said. “You’ll notice the House often will pass a bill and it sends it to the Senate and it never emerges.”

“It’s not just Senator Dodd or Senator Lieberman. The Senate is the graveyard of the hopes, the legislative hopes in our country, and it just is dysfunctional. It requires a supermajority. It’s paralyzed in its own right and that ought to be a big issue in 2010,” Nader said.

As far as Dodd is concerned, Nader said he wouldn’t write Dodd off the way some people are speculating the Democrats may do by nominating another Democrat in order to maintain the seat.

However, Dodd “has been very concessionary to the banks and the brokerage houses” and for years going back to when he was in the House, Dodd relied heavily on Wall Street contributions.

Recently, Nader said Dodd has been generating some pretty good consumer rhetoric, but the test is “how far he’ll push for real consumer organization in the financial consumer regulatory bill.”