The Michigan Republican Party submitted more than 40,000 signatures last week in a bid to get independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader on the state's November ballot.

Of course, this is not really about helping Nader. It is all about helping President Bush and hurting Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry's campaign in a closely contested state.

The Michigan GOP denies that, of course. Matt Davis, a spokesman for the group, said it was merely concerned about third-party candidates being left off the ballot. He could not name, however, another third-party or independent candidate his party has helped.

Nader may need the Republican signatures. He has been endorsed by the Reform Party and had planned to use its line on the Michigan ballot. But a dispute over who runs the party's state chapter -- and which candidate it supports -- has thrown that into question.

Nader's campaign, assuming that he would run with the Reform Party there, stopped collecting signatures more than a month ago -- and turned in fewer than 6,000 of them by Thursday's deadline. He needed about 30,000 valid signatures to qualify as an independent.

Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese said the campaign still hopes to run with the state's Reform Party. But he said it may have to use the Republican-sponsored signatures: "We have to get on the ballot somehow."

Cheney's Humble Roots

Much has been made of the contrast between Vice President Cheney and his Democratic challenger, John Edwards. But what about the similarities? Cheney's wife, Lynne, introduced him at a campaign event this week in Pittsburgh -- and sounded positively Edwards-esque.

"I have known him since he was 14 years old and working as a janitor at the Ben Franklin store in Casper, Wyoming," she said, according to a transcript.

"I made a list today of some of the jobs he had," she said. "He clerked at a candy story. He bused tables in a cafeteria. He loaded trucks for a dollar an hour. One summer he started out working in a bentonite plant, filling sacks full of a hundred pounds of bentonite and loading them onto railroad cars," she said. "Then -- and this will surprise you -- he got his union ticket. And as a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, he spent six years, on and off, building power lines to help pay his way through school."

She added: "We live in a great country when a young man with small-town roots and values and common sense can represent his state in the Congress, can become secretary of defense, and can serve as vice president of the United States."

The introduction was oddly reminiscent of Edwards's widely praised stump speech, in which he harks back to his hardscrabble childhood in North Carolina, where his father worked in a mill.

But Lynne Cheney's comments were ironic if only because the Republican National Committee has lacerated Edwards for playing up his humble roots, calling him "phony and disingenuous" on the RNC Web site.

'Informational' Pickets?

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D) and his city's Democratic National Convention host committee sent separate letters to state delegations yesterday, asking them not to boycott convention-related events picketed by local unions.

Police and firefighters who have been working without a contract for two years plan to picket outside welcome parties hosted by Menino on Sunday unless a contract is signed this week. At least six delegation leaders have said they will not cross picket lines. Menino said there would be "informational picket lines only" and added, "No one is on strike."

The host committee asked delegates not to let the labor dispute "stand in the way of a successful convention."

Jim Barry, a spokesman for the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, called the letters "a panicked, shrill attempt," adding, "Good Democrats will know a picket line when they see one."

Staff writer Jonathan Finer in Boston contributed to this report.

Lynne Cheney gets a hug from Vice President Cheney after an introduction reminiscent of John Edwards's stump speech.