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Inside Politics

Campaigns tour battleground states

Cheney attacks record; Kerry vows 'more effective war'


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The Bush campaign is working to attract the minority vote

Vice President Dick Cheney stumps in Ohio for President Bush

John Kerry kicks off a tour of small towns in battleground states.
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PARMA, Ohio (CNN) -- The Bush and Kerry campaigns staked out turf in key states Saturday that could help determine November's election.

Vice President Dick Cheney kicked off his first bus tour of the campaign season, which will take him through Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, while Sen. John Kerry met with farmers in Wisconsin as part of his tour through Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.

Cheney's first stop was Parma, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, where he lauded job growth and successes in the war on terrorism before directing a litany of criticism against the man looking to supplant President Bush.

"This is the good part of the speech," Cheney joked.

No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying Ohio. Bush captured the state's electoral votes in 2000, but Kerry leads in statewide polls. Cheney acknowledged that the GOP is locked in a "tough race."

"Senator Kerry spends a lot of time talking down the economy, yet he never gets around to explaining how he plans to create a single job," he said. "He's promised to repeal most of the Bush tax cuts within the first 100 days in office. It's not surprising when you consider his record."

In a tie but no jacket, Cheney delivered a slew of familiar campaign mantras, including the assertion that Kerry "over the years voted over 350 times for higher taxes for the American people."

The Kerry campaign and some nonpartisan political groups have called that criticism a mischaracterization of the senator's record.

According to FactCheck.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, that figure includes votes Kerry cast to leave taxes unchanged in the face of proposed Republican cuts.

Kerry's campaign issued a statement rebutting Cheney's claim.

"Many of the votes cited by Republicans/Bush were actually for lowering taxes on Americans in Democratic alternative tax cuts," the statement said. "John Kerry will cut taxes for the middle class."

Cheney's higher profile on the campaign trail comes even as Democrats step up attacks on him, including his ties to the energy-services giant Halliburton Co.

Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, when he became Bush's running mate. Halliburton's involvement in the Iraq reconstruction effort has been criticized since it won a multibillion-dollar no-bid contract in 2003. Investigators from the General Accounting Office -- the independent, nonpartisan, investigative arm of Congress -- have found that the no-bid process was legal.

In his speech, Cheney accused Kerry of waffling, and said, "These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, saying one thing one day and another thing the next."

The crowd cheered "four more years" and "U.S.A.," and Cheney paused several times, grinning.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Cheney's polarizing rhetoric will backfire with swing voters.

"The more Dick Cheney is out there the better it is for John Kerry -- the better it is for Democrats," McAuliffe said. "He is our new Newt Gingrich," referring to the former House speaker who was widely seen as a polarizing figure.

But Republican Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio said Cheney is a significant asset to the party whose experience will trump that of whomever Kerry chooses as a running mate.

After the Parma rally, he stopped at the Pro Football Hall of Fame en route to another speech.

Kerry, meanwhile, spoke to dairy farmers in Independence, Wisconsin, delving into specifics of issues such as subsidies and trade policies.

"We need a government that accepts responsibility," he told the crowd. "You deserve a government that understands that and helps make that work for you. I don't think that's what's happening today."

In jeans and a striped button-down shirt, and standing before a sign reading "Celebrating the Spirit of America," Kerry also turned to the broader issues shaping his campaign.

"I can run a more effective war on terror," he said. "I will make America safer and stronger than George Bush is. I will respect the values of this country that build alliances ... showing patience and maturity is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength."

He added, "I'm here to tell you with every ounce of conviction in my body, every ounce of common sense God gave me, my parents gave me, that we can make better decisions that stand by the middle class, and the average worker and the average American in this country."


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