Cheney Visits GOP Loyalists in Ohio

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Vice President Dick Cheney was in Ohio on Monday raising money, and working to energize the party's base.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

While the president tried to persuade doubters, Vice President Cheney spoke to dedicated supporters. He was raising money in the town of Hanoverton, Ohio, as NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

Cheney came to a place called the Spread-Eagle Tavern & Inn. It's an historic watering hole built in 1837 for cargo shippers on a nearby canal who wanted a drink or two.

The owner is David Johnson, a prominent local Republican who's family restored the place, including the eagle that's carved above the entrance.

Mr. DAVID JOHNSON (Owner, Spread Eagle Tavern & Inn): The name "Spread Eagle" we get many questions about, really dates back to a time when tavern houses and inns were named after animals.

GREENE: There's a photo of Ronald Reagan at the front desk here, and a room named after President Bush's mother, Barbara Bush. Right off the bat, you could tell this was a friendly place for Cheney to come talk.

Vice President DICK CHENEY: I bring greetings to everybody from the president of the United States, George W. Bush.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

GREENE: There was no talk of low poll numbers at the Spread Eagle, where Cheney came to give a boost to Republican congressional candidate Chuck Blasdel.

Vice President CHENEY: You know, a lot of people don't know it, but I served in Congress for ten years. I was the congressman from Wyoming, and Wyoming only had one congressman, so it was a small delegation.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Vice President CHENEY: But it was quality.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GREENE: For a hundred and fifty dollars a pop, you could get in to hear Cheney. If you paid a little more than $2,000, you could also have a photo taken with him. But Cheney was here to dish out political red meat. He hammered Democrats on one issue: whether the president should be censured for signing off on a warrantless, domestic surveillance program that some consider illegal.

Vice President CHENEY: This outrageous proposition that we ought to protect al-Qaida's ability to communicate as it plots against America, poses a key test for the Democratic leaders. Do they support the extreme and counterproductive antics of a few? Or do they support a lawful program vital to the security of this nation?

GREENE: As it turns out, Republicans seemed to be talking more about the president being censured than Democrats. Some in the GOP say the natural next step after censure is impeachment. Their message: if Democrats control Congress next year, impeachment could make headlines again.

Now, no prominent Democrat has even talked about impeachment, and many are running away from the idea of censure. Still, at a time when the war is loosing support, Republicans seem to be turning to an area where they may be somewhat stronger. A bare majority of Americans supports the president's warrantless wiretapping program. What's more, Republicans may be hoping that if talk of impeachment is in the air, they can fire up their base, people like Ohio Republican Sharon Bronstein(ph).

Ms. SHARON BRONSTEIN: I think we have good leadership under the president. And I don't really like it when people knock him and make fun of him, and stuff.

GREENE: As for her reaction to the Cheney speech?

Ms. BRONSTEIN: I don't even know what he said. It was just fun to see him, wonderful to see him. It makes you feel, anyway, for me, it made me feel like a real American.

GREENE: For a reality check, I walked out of the Spread Eagle Tavern and across the street.

Does everyone around here love Cheney?

Ms. MONICA MURPHY: Hell, no.

GREENE: Monica Murphy was the first resident in sight. When asked about the war in Iraq, she said she once supported it, but no longer.

Ms. MURPHY: I think the time has come for us to be gone from there--long time ago, actually.

GREENE: So, to hear the other side of the public debate over Iraq, Cheney would only have had to cross the street.

David Greene, NPR News in Alliance, Ohio.

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