Cheney May Be a Mixed Blessing for Bush Team
About the same time, Cheney drew the president back into broad claims about links between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network, the day before the Sept. 11 commission announced its conclusion that there was no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.
Some Republican officials also said they are concerned about the renewed scrutiny Cheney will receive when Kerry names his running mate. Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said the risk of Cheney's campaign appearances in swing states is that he "will raise the profile of the things that people don't like about Bush," including secrecy and the administration's case for invading Iraq.
A CBS News/New York Times poll last month put Cheney's favorable rating at 22 percent, compared with 39 percent for Bush. Cheney's unfavorable rating was 31 percent -- nearly tripled from 11 percent early in 2002. Bush had a 79 percent approval rating among Republicans; Cheney's was 48 percent.
Democrats contend that Cheney helps do their work for them, by symbolizing their charges that the White House is too secretive and more concerned about energy companies than average workers.
Cheney's defense of his ties to Halliburton Co., the Texas-based energy firm that he headed and that is the biggest beneficiary of U.S.-funded contracts in Iraq, gets a close-up in Michael Moore's film, "Fahrenheit 9/11." Comedian Jon Stewart has made repeated use of a clip of Cheney denying to an interviewer last month that he had made a statement connecting Iraq to the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, followed by a clip of Cheney making the statement on NBC's "Meet the Press" two months after the attacks.
Kerry pollster Mark Mellman called Cheney "a ball and chain that Bush is carrying around." Tad Devine, a Kerry strategist, said Cheney "embodies a lot of the negative traits" about Bush, including that he is "stubborn and ideological."
Cheney's main political function has been as minister to the right wing, but the trip aboard the campaign's armored "Yes, America Can'' bus took him to Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania -- all toss-up states. Suburban voters are critical in Pennsylvania, which some Bush aides say is the big state they have the best chance of adding this time to their tally from 2000. Bush on Friday will make his 30th visit to Pennsylvania, his fourth most-visited state after Texas, Maryland and Virginia.
Cheney, over shouts of "U.S.A.!" and "Four more years," told an indoor Independence Day rally in Pittsburgh, at the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial: "We'll see you again many times in this campaign."
Cheney -- who appeared at every stop with his wife, Lynne, and their 10-year-old granddaughter, Kate -- also made remarks from the back of a classic convertible in Lisbon, Ohio; toured the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio; and threw out the first pitch for the minor-league Altoona Curve team.
Under a gazebo in the town square of Ligonier, Pa., Cheney joked, "We do have an opponent out there." Stroking the back of his head, he said, "I'm trying to remember now," until the crowd shouted Kerry's name.
Mary Matalin, who is Cheney's former counselor and plans to travel with him on some key campaign trips, vowed that he will become "the king of swing," referring to plans for Cheney to campaign in battleground states.
"Talking about image makeovers misunderstands this campaign," Matalin said. "This campaign is about substance, and that's what he does best."
Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll, said the use of the obscenity may have hurt Cheney with the white Protestant voters that Bush's aides consider their most crucial voting bloc. But a Cheney aide said the rebuke was the most popular statement the vice president had made in months, aside from his eulogy of former president Ronald Reagan at the Capitol. The aide said Cheney has received hundreds of e-mails and calls complimenting him.
"It was a give-'em-hell-Harry moment," the aide said. "It's been huge."
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