LANSING, Mich. – Vice President Dick Cheney (search) campaigned with his wife and two granddaughters at the Lansing Center on Friday, criticizing Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) and promising to campaign often in Michigan to guarantee a win in the crucial Midwestern swing state.
"These are not times for leaders who shift with the political winds, who saut 1,000 cheering supporters.
He also poked fun at his balding, often serious demeanor, noting, "Everybody said Senator Edwards got picked because he's sexy, good-looking and charming. I said, `How do you think I got this job?"'
Recent polls show Bush and Kerry are locked in a tight race in Michigan, where Democrat Al Gore beat Bush by 5 percentage points in 2000.
But supporter Jody Lamb, 21, said she thinks Bush and Cheney's frequent visits to the state are improving the president's chances for winning Michigan in November.
"They're doing a good job visiting recently, making themselves part of the Michigan scene," said the Michigan State University student from Whitmore Lake. "It's very nice to hear from the vice president that we're going to win the war on terror."
President Bush campaigned in Marquette earlier in the week, and he and Kerry are to visit Detroit next week to speak to the Urban League. Kerry and his running mate, John Edwards, are expected be in Michigan shortly after the Democratic National Convention wraps up July 30, Michigan Democratic Executive Chairman Mark Brewer said Friday.
About 30 Democrats standing across from the Lansing Center chanted anti-Cheney slogans and held up signs criticizing the Bush administration before Cheney's appearance. "I asked for health care and all I got was this lousy war," one protester's sign read.
Brewer said the vice president's remarks about a growing number of jobs ring hollow in Michigan. Cheney told supporters they need to stick with a president whose policies are improving the economy and keeping America safe from terrorists.
"They talk about the economy improving, but it's not in Michigan," Brewer said, noting that the state unemployment rate remains nearly a full percentage point above the national average and that a million Michigan residents don't have health care.
Protesters from the Sierra Club of Michigan took to the Grand River flowing beside the Lansing Center in canoes and kayaks to criticize the Bush administration's environmental record. One woman in a yellow kayak held up a sign saying, "Mercury makes fish unfit to eat."
Another man accompanied in his canoe by his dog said the Grand River was so polluted he couldn't let his dog drink out of it.
"The Bush administration is actually moving toward making the water dirtier," Sierra Club state director Anne Woiwode said as she stood with about a dozen other Sierra Club protesters at a riverside park. "The Bush-Cheney administration has gutted enforcement of laws that protect Michigan's lakes, rivers and streams."
Cheney's visit Friday was his third to Michigan in six weeks. He was in Michigan twice last month, talking to a police organization June 4 in Grand Rapids and promoting economic improvements June 25 during a stop in Buena Vista Township near Saginaw.
U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was to accompany Cheney on Friday's visit. The two men also campaign Friday in Waterloo, Iowa.
McCain won Michigan's 2000 GOP presidential primary and is popular with state voters across the political spectrum. He planned to spend part of Friday and Saturday campaigning for former state Sen. John "Joe" Schwarz in his fight to win the 7th District GOP congressional primary.
Despite McCain's popularity with Michigan voters, Brewer said his efforts to promote the president won't matter much.
"McCain's not on the ticket," Brewer said. "This is a choice between Kerry-Edwards and Bush-Cheney."