Cheney hits both ends of Nevada in election-eve bid for GOP votes
SPARKS – Vice President Dick Cheney capped Nevada’s extraordinary campaign season Monday with an election-eve appeal to GOP faithful on both ends of the battleground state to repeat the tireless effort that helped President Bush win in 2000.
Democrats said Cheney’s third trip to Republican-dominated Washoe County this year was a sign Democratic Sen. John Kerry had made significant inroads in traditional GOP strongholds like northern Nevada.
“This looks like Bush-Cheney country,” Cheney told a packed gymnasium at Sparks High School Monday night, his seventh visit to Nevada and last stop on the way home to Wyoming for Tuesday’s election.
“We have a great feeling about Nevada. With your help tomorrow, we’re going to carry Nevada,” he told the cheering crowd of more than 700.
“There’s a great deal at stake in this election and I want to ask for your vote just as sincerely as I can,” he said.
Earlier Monday, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, made a similar plea to about 1,000 backers at Green Valley High School in Henderson, part of what she said was the final leg of a 10,000 mile-trek over 24 hours to Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada and Wyoming.
The final stop in Nevada underscored the importance both parties were putting on the Western swing state’s five electoral votes.
Kerry also made seven trips and President Bush four this year to Nevada, which has sided with the winner in all but one presidential election since 1912 – when President Ford carried Nevada but lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Former President Bill Clinton, who won Nevada twice, ex-presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley Clark and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards were among the high profile Democrats who campaigned for Kerry over the weekend in Nevada.
Both major parties – each with about 40 percent of Nevada’s 1.1 registered voters – were focussing attention Monday on a last-minute effort to get out the vote.
Nick Shapiro, western regional spokesman for the Democratic National Committee who has spent the past week in Reno, predicted Kerry would enjoy significant support from Republicans in Nevada.
“We are neck and neck in Republican territory,” Shapiro said Monday night.
“The reason they are spending so much time here is the Bush campaign is figuring out that even in the traditionally Republican-stronghold of northern Nevada, the people are agreeing with John Kerry and John Edwards,” he said.
“The people of Nevada understand that John Kerry is a leader who can provide them health care, can win the peace in Iraq and will not let Yucca Mountain happen,” he said.
Outside Sparks High School Monday night, about 100 protesters carried signs that mostly focussed on the Bush administration’s support for building a nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain 90 miles north of Las Vegas.
The national attention in the presidential race was helping fuel projections of record turnout Tuesday at the polls, where incumbents Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Reps. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Jon Porter, R-Nev., all were favored to win re-election.
Gibbons, seeking a fifth term, rallied with Cheney at the high school Gibbons attended in the a blue-collar section of Sparks that began as a railroad town at the turn of the century. He introduced Cheney as “a Westerner just like us” and predicted Bush would carry Nevada again.
“Tomorrow, we are going to prove that we were right all along,” said Gibbons, whose vast district covers all of Nevada except parts of Las Vegas and Clark County in the south.
Two women carried signs that read “Cowgirls for Bush-Cheney” and a country western band, the Comstock Cowboys, warmed the crowd up with tunes like “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “El Paso.”
Cheney delivered much of his stock stump speech but also touched on some Western themes, pointing to his staunch support for gun rights and the Bush administration’s defense for Nevada’s mining industry operating primarily on federal lands.
He ridiculed what he said were attempts by Kerry to portray himself as a bold leader in the attack on terror, strong backer of the military and champion of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.
“As we like to say in Wyoming, you can put all the lipstick you want on that pig, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig,” Cheney said to loud cheers.
“That’s my favorite line. You want to hear it again?” he asked the enthusiastic backers. They did, and he obliged.
He also made fun of the camouflage hunting jacket Kerry wore recently while hunting geese in Ohio.
“My personal opinion is his camo jacket was just an October surprise,” Cheney said, part of an effort to “hide the fact he votes against gun owners every chance he gets.”
“If you want my opinion, John Kerry’s goose is cooked,” he said.
The vice president’s nearly half-hour speech in Sparks was interrupted so many times by screams and slogans from energetic backers that at one point he said, “Look, the election is tomorrow. We’ve got to get through this speech.”
The only dissenting voice came from a critic who interrupted when Cheney was talking about the U.S. success in the war in Iraq, shouting, “Why didn’t we find any weapons of mass destruction?”
Security escorted the man from the gym as Cheney said to cheers: “Treat him gently. He has 24 hours to change his mind.”
Later, as the crowd chanted “Four More Years, one man shouted to Cheney, “I love you.”
“Control yourselves,” Cheney answered to laughs. He had to pause again near the end of his speech when the crowd’s approval grew louder as he ticked off the sharp differences between Kerry and Bush on a host of issues.
“I’m almost through, but I could give the whole speech again,” he said, as the crowd cheered. “That’s a joke. I’ve got to get home tonight.”