Brooke Campbell and four new friends have been scurrying around the country this week, shadowing Vice President Cheney at his campaign stops in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The women call themselves the "Band of Sisters," and say they are chasing Cheney in the days before the election to tell the other side of the war the vice president has called "a remarkable success story."
Campbell's only brother, Army Sgt. Ryan M. Campbell, 25, died in Baghdad in April when his squadron was attacked. He had grown disillusioned about the war, she said. His death and the growing casualty list in Iraq propelled Brooke Campbell, 28, to try to confront Cheney, whom she sees as a chief architect of the war.
But it is hard to catch the attention of a man enveloped by a small army of Secret Service agents and campaign aides, and whose appearances are choreographed with the precision of a Radio City Music Hall Christmas show.
And there are logistical problems -- relying on commercial flights and rental cars to race against Air Force Two and a vice presidential motorcade. This week, the women missed a Cheney appearance because their flight was fogged in in another city. Even when they arrive ahead of schedule, protesters are kept out of Cheney events and a safe distance away.
So the women, who all have loved ones killed in the war or still serving, aim chiefly to talk to the local media covering Cheney's appearances.
Brooke Campbell is also appearing in a $2 million television ad campaign by MoveOn PAC, which shows President Bush at the Radio and Television Correspondents' dinner in March, poking fun at the inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "My brother died looking for weapons of mass destruction," she says in the ad.
This week in Wilmington, Ohio, Cheney did encounter the grandmother of a soldier killed in Iraq. The woman said she has three other family members serving in the conflict, and that she supports the war, but politely asked when the troops would be coming home. In the same businesslike monotone he had used to discuss Social Security, Cheney said the country honored her sacrifice and the sacrifices of all others lost in the war, and the military will return home when the job is done.
Democrats Getting Up Close and Personal
In the effort to get loyal voters to cast ballots on Election Day, a Republican polling firm has found that the campaign of John F. Kerry and its Democratic allies have personally contacted many more voters in key swing states than the Bush campaign and its allies.
Tony Fabrizio, of Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed voters in 12 contested states and found that an unusually high 18 percent had received personal visits seeking their vote.
Of these, the largest group, nearly half, consisted of Kerry supporters. The next-largest group, about a third of those who had received visits, was contacted by both campaigns. The smallest, about one fifth, was Bush supporters.
Although not conclusive, the Fabrizio poll suggests that Kerry and Democratic groups have been far more active contacting supporters than their GOP counterparts.
In terms of exclusive visits, "Team Kerry holds a 3 to 2 contact advantage over Team Bush, and it appears to be paying dividends. Not surprisingly, both candidates win handily among those voters who have been visited exclusively by their respective camps," Fabrizio said.
Furor in Kentucky Senatorial Race
A new furor erupted in the Kentucky senatorial race after two Republican state legislators made comments that appeared to question the sexual orientation of Daniel Mongiardo, a physician and state legislator who is challenging Sen. Jim Bunning (R).
During a tour by Bunning of eastern Kentucky Wednesday, state Sen. Elizabeth Tori said she served with Mongiardo in the legislature and "he is not a gentleman -- I'm not even sure the word 'man' applies to him," the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. State Senate President David Williams reiterated an earlier reference to Mongiardo as "limp-wristed," the paper said.
In response to reporters' questions, Mongiardo said yesterday he is not gay and accused Republicans of "outrageous lies," according to his campaign staff. Other angry Democrats resurrected earlier questions about Bunning's mental health and his sometimes-odd behavior in the campaign.
Staff writers Thomas B. Edsall and Helen Dewar contributed this report.