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At the Finish Line

Times Staff Writer

For Vice President Dick Cheney, the long campaign for President Bush’s reelection is ending in the same way it began: in attack-dog mode.

On the eve of what is expected to be a close contest, he completed an exhausting 39 hours of nonstop campaigning that took him through eight states -- including a late-night stop in Hawaii, which hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since Ronald Reagan.

At every stop, Cheney appeared before cheering crowds of Republicans, reflecting his effort to ensure that the GOP’s most loyal supporters turn out to vote.

“Get your friends and your neighbors to come out as well,” he said in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Monday morning. “There is a lot at stake in this election.” Several hundred supporters turned out in snowy weather for the rally to welcome Cheney, repeatedly interrupting him with chants of “Four more years!”

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From Colorado, he made two stops in Nevada and attended a final pre-election day rally in Wyoming, his home state. Today he is expected to make one stop in Wisconsin, another battleground state, on his way back to Washington.

In all his appearances, he highlighted what was regarded as Bush’s strength: his national security credentials. Despite the long trip, which included stops Sunday and Monday in Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and New Mexico, Cheney appeared relaxed and confident of victory today.

Dressed in jeans and a sport coat, he was more casual in these final stops; he has even broken up his campaign speech, delivered in his usual monotone, to joke with audiences.

In a line that he has been using recently to contend that Democrat John F. 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 in Colorado Springs that Cheney noted, “That’s my favorite line.”

Then, turning serious, he said, “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.”

Before arriving in Colorado on Monday morning, Cheney drew about 10,000 supporters, the largest crowd to attend one of his events, to a late-night rally in Hawaii. Democrat Al Gore won the state in 2000 with about 55% of the vote, but Cheney added it to his schedule after polls showed a closer-than-expected race.

“Aloha,” Cheney, wearing an orange lei, told the cheering crowd at the Honolulu Convention Center. “I am here for a very simple reason: Hawaii is a vital state in the election, and President Bush and I would be honored to have your vote.”

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

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.”

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

As he has throughout much of the campaign, Cheney appeared with his wife, Lynne, and his three granddaughters.

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During a stop Monday afternoon in Henderson. Nev., he introduced his grandchildren, and then sent them off the stage. “If you leave them on the stage for the speech, nobody pays attention to the speech,” he quipped.

He then headed on to Sparks, a Reno suburb. Interrupted by a heckler, he urged campaign security to treat the man gently as they removed him from the high school gymnasium because “he has 24 hours to change his mind.”


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