Vice President Dick Cheney (search) said Tuesday that a vote for Democratic Sen. John Kerry (search) would guarantee higher taxes, the appointment of liberal judges to the federal bench and result in a weaker commander in chief.

"What we're hearing from the other side is failed thinking, thinking of the past and we're not going back," Cheney said told a crowd of about 1,000 people in a suburb of Des Moines.

On the day in which the Labor Department said productivity of U.S. workers rose at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the spring, the slowest increase since late 2002, Cheney said: "This is a strong economy. It will grow stronger. The Bush tax cuts are working."

His comments also came days after the Labor Department said just 32,000 jobs were created last month. Some 1.1 million jobs have been lost since President Bush took office.

At the end of the speech, a hail of red, white and blue balloons cascaded over the crowd. Cheney shook hands with supporters as he left the events center.

"With your help, come November, Iowa is going to be part of our nationwide victory," he told the crowd.

A few protesters lingered outside with signs protesting the Bush administration's "special treatment" of Halliburton Co., which has received lucrative government contracts to help rebuild Iraq. Cheney was the company's CEO from 1995-2000.

At the rally, at least one volunteer sought signatures for petitions to put independent Ralph Nader on the Iowa presidential ballot. The volunteer refused to identify himself or his organization.

One woman who signed the petition said she did so because Nader could take votes from Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Democrats fault Nader for costing Al Gore the presidency in 2000, taking votes from the Democrats in states such as Florida and New Hampshire where the margin was razor-thin.

Kristin Scuderi, Iowa GOP spokeswoman, said she did not know who was behind the effort.

"No employee of the Republican Party is circulating petitions for Ralph Nader," she said. "I think it's people that just support his candidacy."

The deadline for submission of petitions to the Iowa secretary of state's office is Friday. The requirement is 1,500 signatures.

Asked if having Nader on the ballot would help Bush in Iowa, Gentry Collins, executive director of the Iowa GOP, said: "It sure wouldn't hurt."

Gore won the state by just 1 percentage point four years ago.