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Vice presidential candidates campaign in Minnesota
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Sen. John Edwards speaks to a crowd of about 12,000 on St. Paul's Harriet Island. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
Minnesota's status as a swing state brought both vice presidential candidates to the Twin Cities on Monday. Republican Dick Cheney held a town meeting at the State Fair. Democratic candidate John Kerry's running mate John Edwards spoke to thousands of supporters at an AFL-CIO labor day picnic. Historians say vice presidents don't usually win or lose an election. But they say, in such a tight race, both the Bush and Kerry campaigns are wise to send the vice presidential candidates to woo voters early and often.

St. Paul, Minn. — Observers say vice presidential candidates can spread campaign power by providing a personal connection with voters, especially in swing states like Minnesota.

Vice President Dick Cheney's town hall meeting at the State Fair marked his fourth campaign visit to Minnesota.

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Image Cheneys at the State Fair

He told an audience of about 500 supporters that terrorism is still a significant threat to all Americans. He said during a second term, George W. Bush will provide the kind of national security leadership the country needs.

During his 45-minute appearance, Cheney also spoke of the benefits of the president's tax cuts in helping America recover from the September 11th terrorist attacks, and the recession that started before it.

"I think the key decision was the one the president made at the very outset which was he believed that the best thing we could do to stimulate the economy and to get it back on track, headed towards growth and creating the maximum opportunity for people was to let the American taxpayers keep more of what they earn. And that's exactly what he did," Cheney said.

Cheney also took a shot at John Edwards, the North Carolina senator, and Democratic candidate John Kerry's running mate. Cheney referred to Edwards not by name, but by his pre-Senate profession as a trial lawyer who got significant settlements for clients in medical malpractice cases.

Cheney said trial lawyers legal fees in medical malpractice lawsuits are driving up the costs of health care.

John Edwards got his chance to take a jab at Cheney. Across town, in his third campaign visit to Minnesota, Edwards showed up for a labor day picnic on St. Paul's Harriet Island.

Edwards was an hour late to the appearance. He told the Kerry/Edwards, pro organized-labor audience of about 12,000 people that he was delayed by Dick Cheney. Edwards said he was on time at the airport, but he couldn't land until Cheney's plane took off.

Edwards predicted just four more months of the vice president Cheney controlling the airspace.

Edwards said over the past four years, George W. Bush has made bad choices. He blamed Bush for five million people losing their healthcare, and four million falling into poverty. Edwards charged the president with being "at war" with working people.

He said a Kerry presidency will give the White House back to the American people.

"We believe in hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism, because this is America, where everything is still possible. What all of us believe -- all of us -- is we believe we should never look down on anybody, we ought to lift the people up . We don't believe in tearing people apart, we believe in bringing them together," Edwards said.

Those who study the office of vice president say the public personas of Cheney and Edwards could not be more different.

Independent historian Edward Purcell says Dick Cheney is more comfortable with role of attack dog. But Purcell says, Edwards seems too low key to be very good at that type of campaigning.

Purcell says the choice of vice president will probably have little to do with the election's outcome.

"I don't think anybody's going to vote for John Edwards or Dick Cheney, unless perhaps you're an ultra-conservative and you feel that Cheney is the most important person in the administration. Otherwise I don't think it's going to be terribly important; it almost always comes down to the presidential candidates and how they are perceived and whether or not they line up with the voters own understanding of what's best for themselves and what's best for the country," he said.

With fewer than 60 days until the election, the vice presidential candidates will continue to play roles here and in other battleground states.

The Cheney and Edwards visits will be followed this week with John Kerry in Rochester on Wednesday. And on Thursday, First Lady Laura Bush is expected at a Republican Party rally in Duluth.

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