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Cheney fires up Republicans in Minneapolis
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Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to about 1,000 supporters at a Saturday rally at the Minneapolis Convention Center. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
Vice President Dick Cheney rallied the Republican Party faithful Saturday at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The visit was part of Cheney's Midwest campaign swing through Michigan, Iowa and Nebraska. It follows just days after President George W. Bush's rally in Duluth.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Minnesota House Speaker Steve Sviggum was one of several Republican leaders who primed the crowd in anticipation of Cheney's arrival.

"We are so very fortunate to have President Bush and Vice President Cheney leading our nation, leading this state, leading this country, at these times of change," Sviggum tolld the crowd. "Thanks to their record of accomplishment over the past four years, Bush-Cheney has become the brand name for the words safety, security and steady leadership."

Sviggum and others who spoke, including U.S. Reps. Mark Kennedy and John Kline, and U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, returned again and again to Cheney's experience, and his strong moral leadership. They repeatedly called Cheney a "workhorse," contrasting him to John Kerry's running mate John Edwards -- who was referred to as a "showhorse."

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Image Appreciative crowd

They criticized Edwards for being green and not ready to step in as president if need be.

Cheney's 25-minute speech centered around national security and the economy. Reading from a prepared script in his signature monotone style, Cheney also touched on a few hot-button conservative issues like opposition to so-called partial-birth abortion, and support for faith-based organizations.

Cheney said the U.S. will win the war on terror. He said the the only way to prevent another terrorist attack on U.S. citizens is to defeat tyranny by a continued, steady, and focused war on terror.

"Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness," said Cheney. "This nation made a decision. We will engage the enemy, facing him with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq, so we do not have to face him with armies of firefighters, police and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities."

We will engage the enemy, facing him with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq, so we do not have to face him with armies of firefighters and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities.
- Vice President Dick Cheney

After the event, Bush supporter Danielle Rudd of Bloomington said seeing Cheney and the others speak reassured her. She says what resonated with her is the administration's focus on homeland security.

"That, I believe is the main issue. I think everything trickles down from there," Rudd said. "The economy is better when people aren't bombing us, and planes going into our buildings. So I think homeland security is definitely one of my biggest issues, and obviously one of the Bush administration's biggest issues."

Observers say because the race is so tight in Minnesota, the Bush-Cheney campaign needs its base to come out to the polls in huge numbers.

University of Minnesota political scientist Larry Jacobs says for that reason, the campaign is probably right to focus on national security issues.

"We're having problems in Iraq, we're facing a struggle against terrorism. But the president and Cheney are at the helm, and will take decisive action and won't dilly-dally about it," said Jacobs. "And I think this is one of the key messages that the ticket thinks they can swing Minnesota and other states to support."

Many Democrats criticize the Bush administration for its handling of Iraq, as well as the economy. Minnesota DFL Chairman Mike Erlandson calls Cheney's visit to Minnesota an opportunity for the Kerry-Edwards campaign to highlight what Erlandson calls the current administration's "poor record" over the past three and a half years.

"If people here in our state ask themselves the question that Ronald Reagan used to like to use: 'Are you better off today than you were three and a half years ago?' For 95 percent of Minnesotans and the rest of the country, the answer to that question is no," said Erlandson.

Minnesota's status as a battleground state brought President Bush here last week and Cheney over the weekend. While in Minnesota, both politicians called the state "Bush-Cheney country." And, they added, they'll be back again soon. No doubt Democrat John Kerry -- who visited Minnesota in early July -- will be back again too.

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