Vice President Dick Cheney (search) on Tuesday called Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (search) an indecisive opportunist who is "not prepared to lead America in the war on terror."

Cheney acknowledged there are other issues in the presidential campaign, but he contended that the election was a referendum on who can best keep America safe.

"In the present conflict, he has shown endless vacillation and indecision," Cheney said of Kerry during his third trip to Iowa in a month. "And his record establishes that he is not prepared to lead America in the war on terror."

Dismissing Kerry's plan for Iraq as "an echo" of President Bush's strategy, the vice president told supporters that Kerry has supported and opposed Bush on Iraq depending on how he assessed the political advantage.

"His endless back-and-forth on Iraq sends a message of confusion and shows that he is not ready for the responsibilities of commander in chief," Cheney said.

Democrats offered a counter to Cheney's criticism by hosting a rally in Dubuque for Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe (search), who led about 200 activists to the local auditor's office to drop off absentee ballots.

"Voters are fed up with the Bush administration's wrong choices in Iraq and Dick Cheney's favors for Halliburton," McAuliffe said. Before he was elected vice president, Cheney ran the Texas-based corporation that has been awarded billions of dollars in government projects in Iraq.

Dubuque, which is heavily blue-collar, long has been a Democratic stronghold. However, it also is heavily Catholic and socially conservative, and Republicans have sought to make gains in the region with their opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

At an evening rally in Eau Claire, Wis., about 200 miles north of where Kerry was prepping for Thursday's debate against Bush, Cheney criticized the Democrat for saying that under his leadership more of America's friends would speak with one voice on Iraq.

"That seemed a little odd coming from a guy who doesn't speak with one voice himself," Cheney said, prompting audience chants of "flip flop, flip flop."