MEDFORD, N.J. – Vice President Dick Cheney (search) hammered away at familiar themes Monday, portraying Democrat Sen. John Kerry (search) as indecisive in a speech to a couple of thousand Republican faithful.
"You ocassionally hear some bold talk from him, but it cannot override a 30-year record of coming down on the wrong side of nearly every major national security issue," Cheney said.
More than his words, Cheney's presence made it clear that New Jersey, which has voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections, is seen as being up for grabs Nov. 2.
"As Election Day draws nearer, one thing that's been very clear in this state is New Jersey's moving toward a Bush-Cheney victory," Cheney, with his wife by his side, told supporters gathered in a Burlington County high school gym.
President Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry have been campaigning heavily in other states, but New Jersey is increasingly getting attention from high-ranking members of both political parties.
In addition to Cheney, First Lady Laura Bush and former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani (search) have stumped for Bush in New Jersey in recent weeks. Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards has been to the state twice. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, was to appear in East Brunswick on Monday night.
John Murphy, a Morris County Republican campaigning for the 2005 gubernatorial election, said he was excited that his vote could be needed in the election. New Jersey Republicans, whose party received $150,000 from the national GOP earlier this month, have been relied upon in recent presidential campaigns more for their pocketbooks than their ballots.
"Until September, we were happy to write checks for the president," Murphy said.
Some surveys have shown Bush and Kerry virtually tied in New Jersey, even though Kerry once held double-digit leads.
The southern portion of the state is saturated with Bush and Kerry television commercials airing on Philadelphia stations because Pennsylvania has long been seen as one of the nation's close races. A northern New Jersey media market with pricier ad time, dominated by heavily Democratic New York, has not received the same kind of attention from either campaign.
While about 2,000 people rallied inside the Lenape High School gym to see Cheney and his wife, Lynne, some 200 Democrats gathered outside to protest.
They said they also have noticed that Republicans have gained ground in polls, a shift that started in late summer.
"It's a little disturbing that a strong Democratic enclave like New Jersey was so easily influenced by the Republican convention," said one of the protesters, Ann Barzda, a volunteer field director for the Kerry campaign in Burlington County.
Cheney devoted most of his 27-minute talk to foreign affairs.
Cheney and two other speakers at the rally — former New York Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik and state Sen. Joe Kyrillos, chairman of the state Republican Committee — also criticized Kerry for saying in a recent interview in The New York Times Magazine that, "We have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they're a nuisance."
"This is naive and dangerous," Cheney said Monday, "as was Sen. Kerry's reluctance earlier to call the war on terrorism an actual war."
Cheney also continued to make the case for the war in Iraq.
"This is a global conflict," Cheney said. "If we fail to aggressively prosecute the war on terror ... the likelihood will increase that they'll obtain weapons of mass destruction."