- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

From combined dispatches

Both major-party presidential candidates were on the campaign stump on Independence Day, with President Bush saying he had made America safer by toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Sen. John Kerry appearing in Iowa with another Democratic vice presidential possibility.

Mr. Bush told a cheering crowd outside the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston that “because we acted, the dictator, the brutal tyrant, is sitting in a prison cell.”

An enthusiastic audience of 5,000 people waving American flags chanted, “Four more years.”

“Our immediate task in battle fronts like Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere is to capture or kill the terrorists … so we do not have to face them here at home,” Mr. Bush told the audience.

Two Bush opponents, taken out of the crowd in restraints by police, said they were told they could not be there because they were wearing shirts that said they opposed the president. Kerry supporters attended a picnic across the street from the Capitol at state Democratic Party headquarters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kerry celebrated yesterday’s holiday with Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat and one of the men who could become his vice presidential running mate.

Neither man said a word about the process.

“It’s a great day, July 4,” Mr. Kerry said, dodging one of many questions from reporters about whether he would ask the governor to be his running mate.

Asked whether he had reached a decision, Mr. Kerry said: “I made a decision — to get a drink and eat some lunch.”

He did say he enjoyed campaigning with Mr. Vilsack. “I love it. It’s great,” the Massachusetts senator said.

Mr. Vilsack also ignored shouted questions when he and his wife, Christie, marched with Mr. Kerry in a holiday parade in the eastern Iowa town of Cascade on the final day of Mr. Kerry’s three-day campaign bus tour.

“Pardon? Here, you want some candy?” the governor said as he tossed a handful of sweets onto a flatbed trailer that carried a horde of inquiring reporters.

Vanessa Kerry, who rode the bus with her father and sister, Alexandra, said she spent about 40 minutes at dinner with him last weekend “trying to tweak it out of him” — with no luck.

“I was using all sorts of reasons. I was saying, ‘Dad, I’m your daughter. You have to tell me — family.’ And he just laughed,” she told CNN’s “Late Edition.”

Later yesterday, Mr. Kerry and the Vilsacks were to attend a barbecue in nearby Independence, located about 60 miles to the west, before heading south to Cedar Rapids and the senator’s third fireworks show in as many nights.

The president was making his pitch for votes yesterday in West Virginia, a traditionally Democrat-leaning state that Mr. Bush won in 2000 and is considered up for grabs again this year.

The state has a heavy ex-military concentration — 200,000 veterans make up 15 percent of the population — and Mr. Bush praised veterans for “setting a good example for those who have followed … in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

In his ninth visit to West Virginia since taking office, Mr. Bush also thanked National Guard members for their service in a state where 77 percent of the 6,200 National Guard troops have been activated since September 11, including every Army Guard unit except the band and an aviation detachment in Wheeling.

Engine trouble on Air Force One delayed the president’s departure from Hagerstown Regional Airport, near Camp David, where Mr. Bush spent the weekend. A second Boeing 757 was brought from Andrews Air Force Base to take Mr. Bush to West Virginia.

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