Cheney makes Portland visit

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Bush administration’s vigorous pursuit of Oregon’s seven electoral votes this November continued on Monday with the arrival of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney’s visit, his second to the state this year, came two days after his wife was in Oregon to address a state Republican Party convention. The Cheneys are part of a steady stream of Cabinet members and GOP officials who have been trouping through the state this year.

Cheney spoke Monday night at a $1,000-a-person fund-raising event for Oregon GOP congressional candidates Goli Ameri and Jim Zupancic at a hotel near Portland International Airport.

Cheney told supporters that President Bush wants to be elected to “vanquish” terrorists. He mentioned Ameri’s background as an Iranian immigrant, and said she “shares the president’s determination to fight terrorism at its source.”

An estimated 350 people attended the event, with some paying more than $1,000 for private photo sessions with Cheney. More than $400,000 was raised for the two campaigns, said Devon Lyon, spokesman for the Zupancic campaign.

Cheney said the country is facing an enemy “every bit as intent on destroying us as the Axis powers in World War II and the Soviet Union in the Cold War.”

“This is not an enemy we can reason with or negotiate with or appease,” he said. “This is an enemy that we must vanquish.”

The vice president was introduced by his wife, Lynne Cheney, who made appearances at a fund-raiser last Friday in Portland and Saturday at the state Republican convention in Keizer.

Vice President Cheney used some of the same lines his wife used at the Saturday event, saying the nation needs to continue President Bush’s economic policies.

“The economy is strong and growing stronger,” he said.

Before leaving for California to continue his West Coast swing, Cheney announced that he will be back Friday for an appearance in Medford.

Oregon is seen as a swing state in the presidential election, after Al Gore carried the state in 2000 by only 6,700 votes out of 1.5 million cast.

Democrats on Monday chided Cheney for deciding to limit his latest visit to a fund-raiser, instead of speaking to the public. Among these was Neel Pender, executive director of the Oregon Democratic Party.

“If Dick Cheney ever bothered to address Oregonians in public, I’d suggest he explain how he intends to provide health care to the 500,000 uninsured Oregonians or reverse the 44 percent increase in Oregon unemployment since Bush-Cheney took office,” Pender said from the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

Also on Monday, about 70 union members held a rally to protest the Bush administration’s energy policy and its once-close relationship to the Enron Corp.

Oregon AFL-CIO organized the rally.

Democratic Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon told the crowd that Northwest ratepayers are paying 40 percent more for electricity than before Bush took office and said it was time to end “three and a half years of energy policy written by and for Ken Lay.”

Although Oregon is seen as a swing state, a poll issued Friday by the nonpartisan American Research Group in Manchester, N.H., showed presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry ahead in Oregon.

The survey showed Kerry with 50 percent to 42 percent for Bush and 4 percent for independent candidate Ralph Nader, who is struggling to get on the Oregon ballot. The poll of 600 likely Oregon voters was done the weekend of July 19 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Nader has failed to get enough nominating signatures at two mini-conventions. Backers are turning to paid signature collectors in an effort to get 15,000 petition signatures statewide by mid-August.

Political analyst Bill Lunch said he was not surprised by Kerry’s showing in the latest poll.

“If you look at other reasonably competitive statewide contests, Democrats will prevail in the high single digits if not double digits,” said Lunch, an Oregon State University political science professor.

Kerry should get an additional boost if Nader fails to get on the ballot, Lunch said.

Cheney also spoke at a Bush campaign fund-raiser in January in Portland. Since then, there have been cabinet members aplenty.

Treasury Secretary John Snow has visited twice. Commerce Secretary Don Evans, Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Education Secretary Rodney Paige have all made Oregon stops.

Karl Rove, Bush’s top strategist, raised more than $100,000 for the party at a spring dinner. Bush-Cheney campaign chief Marc Racicot and Laura Bush, the president’s wife, made separate stops in Oregon in May.

Bush last was in the state in August 2003, for a Portland fund-raiser and a central Oregon news conference on forest policy.