SYLVANIA, Ohio--Vice President Cheney stepped onto a platform in an Astroturf-covered indoor soccer arena outside Toledo on Thursday for the latest round in the guy wars.
Cheney noted to boos from supporters that John Kerry was also visiting Ohio, prefacing his usual grim stump speech attacking Kerry's fitness to be commander in chief with barbs questioning the Massachusetts senator's fitness to be -- manly.
"The Senator who gets a grade of 'F' from the National Rifle Association went hunting this morning," Cheney said to the whooping crowd. "I understand he bought a new camouflage jacket for the occasion, which did make me wonder how regularly he does go goose hunting."
Waiting for the howls to recede, the man who's central campaign refrain is that Americans should be concerned about nuclear-armed terrorists continued with some political word play.
"My personal opinion is that his new camo jacket is an October disguise, an effort he's making to hide the fact that he votes against gun-owners' rights at every turn," Cheney said. "My fellow sportsmen, this cover-up isn't going to work, because you and I know, the Second Amendment is more than just a photo opportunity."
Making no mention of his own political scrape over hunting -- Cheney's schmoozing with Justice Antonin Scalia at a duck blind, shortly after the Supreme Court had agreed to hear a case on Cheney's energy task force, raised eyebrows -- the vice president took a few more licks. He mocked a Kerry campaign comment that things like the hunting adventure and pauses to catch the hometown Red Sox would help Americans see Kerry "the guy."
"Of course, he does need a little image repair along those lines," Cheney said.
"You know, he said his favorite Boston Red Sox player was Eddie Yost. Of course, Yost never played for the Red Sox," he said, adding to guffaws from local partisans: "And Senator Kerry's the guy who believes Buckeye football is played in Michigan."
Outside the arena, a placard-carrying Kerry supporter reached back to the Vietnam war -- which, unlike Kerry, Cheney missed -- for a silent shot at the vice president's macho credentials.
"5 Deferments," it read.