The Nose walked into WW's sit-down with Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb expecting to meet a Birkenstock-wearing, tofu-munching, wild-eyed whiner. You know the type: They own Volvos and liberal-arts degrees but lack the guts to come out of the closet as Communists.

The type, in other words, who threw the presidency to George Bush in 2000. Instead, Cobb turned out to be a twangy-voiced Texan from a tough background--a smart, seemingly honest activist pol who deserves far more attention than he gets.

As the Greens' guy, he wasted little time falling on his sword for his party, which sucked votes from Al Gore when it backed Ralph Nader in 2000: "I acknowledge that I am one of the factors that got the 2000 election close enough for Bush to steal it."

While them's fighting words in much of Multnomah County, the Nose appreciated Cobb's candor.

Cobb has been working for the Green Party full-time for four years, first as its attorney and now as its presidential standard bearer. This election season, he's running a campaign that some have called a "soft-states" strategy--his efforts seem to be focused in those areas where he can do the least amount of harm to John Kerry. Still, Cobb, unlike Nader, seems dead-serious about creating a viable third party that outlives his election bid.

The question is, why?

Cobb is a competent, energetic, persuasive guy. He could probably get elected to statewide office as a progressive Democrat, maybe even make it to Congress, now that he has moved from Texas to Northern California.

Why run for president representing a party that has a whopping 300,000 registered voters--which, the Nose would bet, is fewer people than the current membership of the David Hasselhoff fan club?

Cobb's answer: He is trying to bring about real social change. And while the Schnoz was preparing to whip his coffee mug toward Cobb to protest such goody-goody earnestness, Cobb continued:

"Look, all real social change came about in this country because of the pressure brought by a third party. Slavery was ended because of pressure brought to bear by a third party called the Republicans. The Greenback-Labor Party [which actually sent members to Congress in the 1870s] pressured this country to give women the right to vote. The Socialist Party created the momentum for the creation of Social Security. The Progressive Party brought pressure to bring about the direct election of the United States Senate."

So what are the issues Cobb would like his Green Party candidacy to reform?

According to Cobb, two: (1) creating an energy policy that is sustainable and weans this nation from its junkie-like dependence on Middle East oil; and (2) designing a health insurance system that provides coverage to every single American.

Sound like good ideas. In fact, if Cobb ever got to talk about anything besides Ralph Nader, they just might resonate with a lot of people. By the end of the hour, the Nose actually thought he could feel the rumblings of a movement.

Then again, it may have been the carne asada burrito he had for lunch.