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Published: Wednesday, 10/20/2004

V.P. quizzed about fate of the 'moral majority'

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

CARROLL, Ohio - A supporter of President Bush had a suggestion for the Republican ticket yesterday at a campaign event with Vice President Dick Cheney.

"As we listen to these debates and the debatable issues such as health care, I see such little difference in the parties," the man, who didn't identify himself, told Mr. Cheney at a "town hall" meeting in an airport hangar in Fairfield County.

He told the vice president he feared that if Mr. Bush lost the election, the "moral majority" in America would also be lost. "I implore you and the President during the next two weeks to show us the difference," he told Mr. Cheney.

"All right; thank you, sir," replied Mr. Cheney, and he went on to the next question.

Mr. Cheney's curt response two weeks before Election Day was another example of how cultural issues are roiling this year's presidential race, with polls showing a dead heat between Mr. Bush and Democrat John Kerry.

Mr. Bush has pushed for a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Mr. Kerry has said he marriage is between one man and one woman, but he is against a federal constitutional amendment - the same stance as Mr. Cheney.

John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron, said Mr. Cheney made the "politic" call in not responding to the man's comment in Carroll about the "moral majority."

"There are a lot of efforts to mobilize conservative Christians such as direct mail and voter guides. Some evangelicals might be disturbed to find out he has a lesbian daughter, but it would be different if he was vigorously defending her," Mr. Green said.

On the way from Carroll to Xenia, Mr. Cheney's campaign bus tour stopped outside the Circleville Bible College, where about 200 students greeted him with blue "Bush-Cheney" signs.

Leigh Mullins, a junior from Hocking County, said she is voting for Mr. Bush because he has tried to outlaw "partial-birth abortion."

"I also don't believe in homosexual marriage," she said.

Asked about Mr. Cheney's daughter, Mary, Ms. Mullins replied: "Just because his daughter is a certain way doesn't mean he fully supports it."

In Xenia, where about 2,200 people filled a livestock building for a rally at the county fairgrounds, Mr. Cheney said he and Mr. Bush "stand for a culture of life" and support gun owner rights.

He did not, as Mr. Bush frequently does on the campaign trail, discuss support for the "traditional definition of marriage."

Most of Mr. Cheney's speech in Xenia and his remarks at a chili restuarant on the west side of Cincinnati focused on national security, in particular how Mr. Bush is a "steady, principled consistent leader" in the war against terrorism and Mr. Kerry is "not a steadfast leader."

In a roundtable discussion with 10 of Mr. Bush's supporters at a Cincinnati restaurant, Mr. Cheney accused Mr. Kerry of trying to scare young people by saying the draft could resume if Mr. Bush is re-elected and scare seniors by saying Social Security benefits could be imperiled.

"He will say virtually anything to try to get elected," Mr. Cheney said.

Brendon Cull, spokesman for the Democratic coordinated campaign in Ohio, said Mr. Cheney's comments that America would be at a bigger risk of a terrorist attack if Mr. Kerry wins the race is "fearmongering of the worst kind."

"George Bush and Dick Cheney raised Medicare premiums making it harder on seniors in Ohio to afford prescription drugs and food," Mr. Cull said.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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