WASHINGTON – The Bush-Cheney campaign unveiled a new weapon Wednesday in its re-election campaign — John Kerry's (search) longtime Democratic colleague and self-described Kerry friend — Georgia Sen. Zell Miller (search).
Despite the affiliation with the Massachusetts senator, Miller who is retiring from the Senate this year, will make the case that Kerry's policies are inconsistent with some of history's most popular Democratic presidents.
Miller, a Georgian who is the lone Democratic senator publicly to back Bush's re-election bid, made the attack against Kerry in a speech announcing his leadership of a national "Democrats for Bush" effort. He was joined by a handful of lesser-known Democrats. The Bush-Cheney campaign said it would release a more comprehensive list in the coming weeks, but on Wednesday released a list of 99 Democrats from 27 states and the District of Colombia as the group's charter members.
The popular former governor cited the policies of Democratic Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman in making the case that Kerry, not Bush, is outside the mainstream on issues ranging from tax cuts to war.
"John F. Kerry has the same initials as John F. Kennedy, but he has a far, far different view of what the government can do to help families prosper," Miller said. "John Kerry's spending and tax plan would stifle our economy and stall our recovery at the worst possible time."
Miller was an original sponsor of Bush's proposed $1.6 trillion tax cut, which Congress trimmed to $1.3 trillion. He argued that it represented a smaller proportion of the American economy and benefited poor Americans even more than one enacted under Kennedy.
As for the war in Iraq, Miller praised Kerry for his Senate vote to authorize force. However, he reasoned Kerry later opposed an $87 billion package to further fund the effort after "spending too much time around Howard Dean," the former candidate and outspoken war critic.
The Kerry camp hit back Wednesday, noting that in the past Miller had lauded Kerry as "one of this nation's authentic heroes, one of this party's best-known and greatest leaders." The campaign added that the Georgia senator is entering outer territory.
"Zell Miller’s new leadership role will be a lonely post. Democrats, and Americans of all stripes, are tired of George Bush’s failed policies and broken promises," said Kerry Communications Director Stephanie Cutter.
Calling Miller "Zig Zag Zell," the Kerry campaign distributed a series of Miller quotes in which he praised Kerry.
At the 2001 Georgia Jefferson Jackson Dinner, Miller said of Kerry, "Early in his Senate career in 1986, John signed on to the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Bill, and he fought for balanced budgets before it was considered politically correct for Democrats to do so. John has worked to strengthen our military, reform public education, boost the economy and protect the environment.”
Cutter said Kerry is still "an authentic American hero" that millions of Americans will unite behind in a powerful call for change this November.
Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot, a former Montana governor, said the campaign would use Miller often on the trail, particularly to rally fellow Democrats to the cause. Miller urged Democratic Bush-backers to find at least five others they could persuade to support the president.
"It'll be easy to recruit Democrats in Florida," said the state's former Democratic lieutenant governor, Wayne Mixson, who joined Miller on a conference call Wednesday. "I was with a bunch of business people yesterday, and I've already got my quota if that's all you want me to get."
Miller has the Senate's most conservative voting record among Democrats. He has backed the president on virtually every key issue and recently published a best-selling book, "A National Party No More: The Conscience of a Conservative Democrat."
“I was born a Democrat and I expect I’ll be a Democrat until the day I leave this earth. But I have grown mighty frustrated with the direction my party has taken over the last few years. National Democratic leaders today are moving further and further away from the principles that made our party great," Miller said, explaining why he has turned to Bush.
Fox News' Peter Brownfeld and The Associated Press contributed to this report.