Cheney Tries to Solidify GOP Base

Times Staff Writer

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — For Vice President Dick Cheney, the long campaign for President Bush's reelection neared an end in the same way it began: in attack-dog mode.

On the eve of what is expected to be a close presidential election, he neared the end of an exhausting 39 hours of campaign travel and rallies that took him through eight states, including a late-night stop in Hawaii, which hasn't voted for a Republican for president since 1984 when it supported Ronald Reagan's re-election.

At all the stops, Cheney appeared before cheering crowds of Republicans, reflecting his effort to ensure that Bush's supporters turn out to vote.

"Get your friends and your neighbors to come out as well," he told a rally in Colorado Springs this morning. "There is a lot at stake in this election."

Several hundred supporters — holding Bush-Cheney signs and carrying flags — turned out in snowy weather for the Colorado rally to welcome Cheney and repeatedly interrupted his speech with chants of "Four more years."

From Colorado, he was headed to Reno and Las Vegas and then home for a final pre-election rally in Wyoming. On Tuesday he is expected to stop at one more rally in Wisconsin, another battleground state, on the way back to Washington.

He stuck to what has been his major theme, highlighting what is regarded as the wartime president's major strength: his national security credentials. And, he continued to assail Bush's Democratic foe, Sen. John Kerry.

Despite the long trip that also included stops from Sunday through Monday in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, Cheney appeared relaxed and said he was confident that he and Bush would win Tuesday's election.

In the final stops, he broke up his stump speech, delivered in the usual monotone, to joke with audiences.

In a line that Cheney has been using in recent speeches to contend that Kerry has tried to cover up a "record of weakness" on national defense, Cheney said, "As we like to say in Wyoming, you can put all the lipstick you want on a pig but at the end of the day, it's still a pig."

The line drew such a loud reaction at a rally in Colorado Springs this morning that Cheney told a cheering crowd of several hundred supporters, "That's my favorite line." And he repeated it to the cheers of the crowd.

He also laughed when, after assailing Kerry for voting to authorize the use of military force in Iraq but then voting against a war-time spending measure, the crowd chanted "Flip-Flop, Flip-Flop."

When Cheney accused Kerry of altering his position on the war during the Democratic primary when he was trailing anti-war candidate Howard Dean, a member of the audience screamed the way Dean did in a notorious concession speech. To which Cheney joked, "Knock it off, Howard."

But turning serious, Cheney told audiences, "If you want a president who will fight the terrorists on the offensive, and never relent in protecting our country, send George W. Bush back for four more years."

As he has throughout much of the campaign, Cheney appeared at the Colorado rally with his wife, Lynne. They were joined by their three granddaughters.

Before arriving in snowy Colorado this morning, Cheney drew several thousand supporters, the largest crowd to attend one of his events, at a late-night rally in Hawaii. Democrat Al Gore won Hawaii with about 55% of the vote in the 2000 presidential election, but Cheney added the island to his schedule at the last minute after polls showed a closer than expected race.

Gore visited the state a few days ago, as did one of Kerry's daughters.

"Aloha," Cheney, wearing an orange lei, told a cheering crowd of about 8,000 supporters at the Honolulu Convention Center.

"I am here for a very simple reason," he added. "Hawaii is a vital state in the election, and President Bush and I would be honored to have your vote."

"The people of Hawaii understand the importance of steady, principled leadership in the White House," he said. "That's why this state is moving our way. And on Tuesday, I have a feeling we're going to surprise a lot of people back on the mainland — we are going to carry the state of Hawaii."

The Cheney campaign said that it was the first time that a national candidate had gone to Hawaii so close to an election.

Sticking to his major theme of highlighting Bush's national security credentials, Cheney said, "If you want a president who will fight the terrorists on the offensive and never relent in protecting our country, then send George W. Bush back for four more years."

Noting that he was standing just a few miles from Pearl Harbor, the site of another attack on America, Cheney said: "If the killers of Sept. 11 thought we had lost the will to defend our freedom, they did not know America. And they did not know George W. Bush."

Even before the vice president spoke, his wife took a shot at Kerry, saying that with another terrorist attack likely to occur, "who do I want standing in the doorway? It is not John Kerry."

The trip made Hawaii the 49th state Cheney visited during the campaign. The only state he missed was Vermont.

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