By Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dr. Jill Stein, expected to be chosen as the presidential candidate of the Green Party on Saturday, acknowledges her ultra-long-shot status in this year's White House race.
"We don't have to win the election in order to win the day," the Harvard-trained physician said on Thursday in a telephone interview. "The whole reason we're in this race is to ensure that everyday people have a voice in this election and a choice at the polls."
The centerpiece of Stein's run is a Green New Deal meant to create 25 million jobs by fostering renewable energy, conservation and energy efficiency efforts like weatherization.
One goal of her campaign is to participate in debates with Democratic candidate President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but that is far from certain. The Commission on Presidential Debates requires that participants have support of 15 percent of the U.S. electorate, as measured in opinion polls. Stein admitted she is nowhere close.
"At this point, the public doesn't know about us, we are just at the very, very beginning right now ... we are starting from ground zero," she said.
Still, Stein has qualified for federal matching funds, the first time a member of the 11-year-old environmentally oriented party has done so, a Green official said. Ralph Nader ran as a Green Party candidate in 2000, but was not a party member. Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party candidate in 2008, did not qualify for matching funds.
Nader's run in 2000 was criticized by some for siphoning off Democratic votes in Florida, paving the way for the election of Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore. Stein disputed this, saying most of Nader's support did not come from Democrats: "This is a case of the loser trying to scapegoat somebody else for the problem."
She turned aside a question about high-profile problems at U.S. renewable energy firms Solyndra and Abound Solar, both of which got millions of dollars in federal assistance.
"Green energy may be going bankrupt here, but it's wildly successful in other places," Stein said. She cited Germany's example in offering initial subsidies for renewable energy, which were gradually withdrawn as the industry grew.
"We need good, sustainable, healthy energy sectors of the economy to take off, and sometimes it requires public investment to do that," she said.
The Green Party is on the ballot in 21 states, and hopes to be qualified in 45 states on November 6.
Stein won 30 of 33 Green Party presidential primaries as one of five candidates seeking that party's nomination, and has clinched the nomination. She is to be officially named the nominee at the party's Saturday convention in Baltimore.
(Reporting By Deborah Zabarenko; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson)