- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2000

CASPER, Wyo. George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney took their campaign on the road together for the first time yesterday, holding a spirited rally in Mr. Cheney's hometown and proudly defending the vice-presidential candidate's conservative record.
"Dick is more than my running mate," Mr. Bush told about 1,200 enthusiastic supporters in the gymnasium of Mr. Cheney's alma mater, Natrona County High School. "He is my partner in a vision to renew America's purpose."
Mr. Cheney, the former defense secretary who represented Wyoming in Congress for 12 years, told the crowd that he is embarking on a crusade with Mr. Bush, the Texas governor and presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
"I can't think of anything more important than giving to our kids and our grandkids a government they can once again be proud of," Mr. Cheney said to loud cheers and chants of "Cheney-Bush."
The one-day trip in friendly territory was little more than an opportunity for Mr. Cheney to get his campaign feet wet again. Introduced in Texas on Tuesday as Mr. Bush's running mate, Mr. Cheney has not run for office since 1988. Yesterday's event brought no new policy announcements. Instead, the affair was high on tame partisan rhetoric and was more of a celebration of a hometown hero back among friends. Even Mr. Cheney seemed a bit surprised at the boisterous greeting for him and his wife, Lynne, the school's 1959 homecoming queen.
"I assure you, they never treated me this well when I was their congressman," Mr. Cheney said with a deadpan grin.
In his first day on the campaign trail, Mr. Cheney also found himself defending his conservative voting record in the House, where he served from 1979 to 1989. Congressional Democrats yesterday criticized Mr. Cheney for consistently voting in favor of gun owners, as well as voting to cut Head Start early education funding.
President Clinton said the selection of Mr. Cheney "will help to clarify that there are big, profound differences between the two leaders and the tickets, and that those differences will have real consequences for the country."
Mr. Cheney responded yesterday, "I am generally proud of my record in the House. I'm sure if I were to go back and look at individual votes, I'd find some that I might tweak and do a bit differently. But that also was the 1980s. We had huge budget deficits… . Frequently, I voted against measures that would have driven up spending. Today, we're in a different era. We've got a surplus."
He said he voted against a resolution calling on the government of South Africa to free activist Nelson Mandela because, "I don't believe unilateral economic sanctions work."
Mr. Bush quickly came to the defense of his running mate, telling reporters, "I obviously thought about the record."
"This is a conservative man," Mr. Bush said. "And so am I. But the thing that distinguishes Dick Cheney is that he can get along with others. He is a persuasive person. He can't stand the politics that divides people into camps and pits people against each other. He'll be a great vice president."
Bush spokeswoman Karen Hughes said Democrats were attacking Mr. Cheney so quickly and with such ferocity because they realize how much credibility he adds to the Republican ticket.
And a new poll released yesterday showed that independent voters favor the positions of Mr. Bush on abortion, taxes and gun control more than the positions of Vice President Al Gore.
"This poll underscores how George W. Bush's message is resonating with the voters," said Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer. "On issue after issue, the American people are responding to the strong leadership of Governor Bush."
The American Values poll said 48.9 percent of those surveyed would support a candidate who would ban partial-birth abortion, as would Mr. Bush, compared with 41.2 percent who would support a candidate who would veto such legislation, as would Mr. Gore.
Mr. Gore quickly criticized the GOP ticket's oil industry connections, telling an audience in Washington on Tuesday night that he would choose a running mate "who will stand up for the people, not the powerful, willing to take on the big polluters, the big drug companies, the HMOs and big oil."
Responding to criticism that the running mates have formed the "oil ticket" because both men have worked in the oil industry, Mr. Bush said, "This is an attempt to divert attention away from the fact that we have no energy policy. I look forward to hearing from the vice president about his energy policy."
The running mates returned to Texas last night, and will embark Friday on a six-state tour beginning in Arkansas and ending on Wednesday in Philadelphia at the Republican National Convention. The campaign swing will touch several battleground states, including Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where Mr. Bush holds leads over Mr. Gore.
"We're going to campaign aggressively all across America," Mr. Bush said. "In the next few months, we'll have a lot of rope lines, balloon drops and hand-shaking. And we can't wait. But this campaign is not just about campaigning. It's about providing leadership for this great land."

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