COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Installing a Democratic Congress in Tuesday's election would hurt America's chances in the war on terror and would bring higher taxes and slower economic growth to the country, Vice President Dick Cheney said Friday.
Cheney appeared at a rally in this Republican bastion to support candidates including state Sen. Doug Lamborn, who faces a surprisingly strong challenge from a former Air Force officer running as a Democrat.
Cheney urged the crowd of several hundred people to do all they can in the next four days to encourage other Republicans to vote.
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His visit follows recent visits by high-profile Democrats including Sen. Barack Obama, former vice presidential candidate John Edwards and former President Clinton, reflecting the parties' interest in Colorado, where polls have suggested Republicans could lose at least one House seat, and possibly two others.
Both Cheney and President Bush, who arrived separately in Colorado Friday evening, were spending the night in the state as they kicked off the party's well-oiled, last-minute get-out-the-vote efforts.
"As you get ready to vote on Tuesday, it's important to remember this election will have enormous consequences," Cheney said, echoing stark, dark terms of previous rallies that the vice president acknowledges has led some to cast him as the Darth Vader of the administration.
"The outcome will determine whether Americans pay higher taxes or lower taxes, it will determine whether this government remains firm and resolute in the war on terror or falls into confusion and doubt and indecision. The stakes are high for America's prosperity, the stakes are high for America's security. The stakes are high for America's families."
Cheney said under Bush's first-term tax cuts, America has had four years of "uninterrupted economic growth" with more than 6.8 million jobs created since august 2003. The government announced earlier Friday that the unemployment rate had dropped to a five-year low of 4.4 percent.
He said a Democratic majority would likely refuse to make Bush's tax cuts, including a planned phase-out of the inheritance tax, permanent, essentially raising taxes.
Wanda James, campaign manager for Democratic challenger Jay Fawcett, called Cheney's comments "fear-mongering." She said Fawcett and a number of other Democrats favor increasing cooperation with other countries in Iraq to help stabilize the region, not pulling out of Iraq.
"In a month that has been one of the deadliest in Iraq, I'm surprised the Republicans are running on the strength of their record in Iraq,"' James said. "Clearly their plan is failing miserably."
If the inheritance tax, which affects less than 1 percent of Americans, "was what we all had to worry about, that would be a beautiful thing," James said.
In a statement, Fawcett noted Lamborn has no military experience and said Congress needs more veterans "asking the tough questions on military issues, guiding defense policy and ensuring that our veterans receive the support they deserve."
Cheney said a Republican Congress would support the legislative tools Bush has said he needs to win the war on terror: Renew all provisions of the USA Patriot Act, authorize a surveillance program to monitor international communications for potential terrorists and authorize the arrest, detention and interrogation of people suspected of having ties to terrorism.
"More than five years after 9-11 the terrorists are still trying desperately to commit acts of violence against Americans," he said. "As long as that remains the case, we are a nation at war and wars are not won on the defensive. We'll protect this country by going on the offensive and by taking the fight to the enemy."
Before the rally, Cheney visited troops at nearby Fort Carson, where nearly 4,000 soldiers from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team have been arriving home after a year in Iraq.
On Saturday, Cheney was scheduled to return to his home state of Wyoming to stump for Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin, a six-term incumbent facing a tough challenge by Democrat Gary Trauner. Bush was to deliver his weekly radio address from Colorado on Saturday before heading to Greeley for a rally.
Recent polls showed Lamborn had opened a lead over Fawcett in the past month. An early October poll by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for The Denver Post had the candidates tied at 37 percent support each. Two weeks later, Lamborn led 47 percent to Fawcett's 40 percent in a similar poll. Both polls had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
The district has been a Republican stronghold since it was created after the 1970 census. It is home to numerous conservative religious groups, several military installations including Fawcett's alma mater, the Air Force Academy, and one of the nation's largest concentrations of military veterans.
Fawcett has surprised many with the strength of his campaign. He has raised more money than all other Democratic candidates for the seat raised in races against Hefley — combined, and has won the support of many Republicans who have publicly campaigned for him.
In their mid-October reports to the Federal Election Commission, Fawcett's campaign had raised a total of $478,322 and had $92,554 cash on hand. Lamborn's campaign had raised $781,078 and had $44,054 cash on hand as of Oct. 18.