Ex-senator rallies Nevada vets to Kerry's cause

LAS VEGAS - The fight for Nevada's five electoral votes will be waged this week among those who know a thing or two about real battles.

Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland will campaign in Reno, Las Vegas and Boulder City for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry later this week in an all-out blitz for the veteran vote.

Cleland, a triple amputee and one of the more visible Kerry surrogates, has a clear message: "George Bush is giving veterans a raw deal, and John Kerry is the real deal."

From his Georgia home, Cleland said Bush has cut funding for Veterans Administration hospitals and has increased the co-pay in VA hospitals.

"Veterans should vote for John Kerry because, number one, he's a great American, and number two, he has bled and almost died for this country," Cleland told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "He is one of them."

Cleland will begin his Silver State tour Friday morning with a news conference in Reno before coming to Las Vegas for a media event. He will take part in the 56th Annual Boulder City Damboree on Saturday morning, parading with Nevada Veterans for Kerry.

Cleland says that Bush administration officials and surrogates have questioned Kerry's military service, which he calls "the height of hypocrisy."

Cleland is still smarting from his 2003 defeat to Republican Saxby Chambliss and still lashes out about the way the race played out. Chambliss ran a television ad that began with images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and then stated that Cleland had voted against President Bush's homeland security bill.

Cleland supported a Democratic version of the same bill.


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