FLINT, Mich. – A day after Vice President Dick Cheney (search) criticized John Kerry (search), Democratic Sen. John Edwards (search) defended his running mate on Friday, saying he spilled "his blood for the United States" and accusing the Republican of distorting Kerry's words.
Cheney told voters in Ohio Thursday that Kerry had called for a "more sensitive" war on terror and mocked that notion as something that won't impress the Sept. 11 terrorists of the Islamic militants who have beheaded U.S. citizens.
Edwards, returning to the campaign after a three-day break, took issue with Cheney's comments and his target — Democratic presidential nominee Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran.
"He took that word and distorted and tried to use it to argue John Kerry will not keep the American people safe," Edwards said. "He's talking about a man who still carries shrapnel in his body. He's talking about a man who spilled his blood for the United States of America."
At a minority journalists' convention last week, Kerry said: "I believe I can fight a more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side and lives up to American values in history."
Edwards' visit to Flint focused on issues polls show are even higher than security on Michigan voters' list of concerns: jobs and the economy.
"What it is is an effort to distract, not to talk about the problems here in Flint, Michigan," the North Carolina senator told the audience of about 500, who gathered in a drizzling rain outside Mott Community College.
Prior to the rally, Edwards held a front-porch meeting with some Flint voters.
One was Susan Duffiny, who was laid off in 2002 from her factory job in Auburn Hills. The Flint woman was retrained as a computer network administrator but has yet to land a job in that field.
"I'm sure there are a lot of people in trouble who don't have health care," Duffiny told Edwards.
"Oh, I can tell you there are a lot of people in trouble," Edwards told her. "For us, jobs are a big issue."
Twenty-seven percent of likely Michigan voters surveyed recently by Lansing-based EPIC/MRA said improving the economy and providing jobs was their biggest concern, nearly twice as many as those listing health care or terrorism, which tied for second.
The state unemployment rate remains a full point above the national rate at 6.5 percent. Flint's unemployment rate was 14.5 percent in June, while the rate in surrounding Genesee County was 8.5 percent.