JOHN YDSTIE, host:
When it comes to red and blue states, you can't get much redder than Wyoming. More than 60 percent of voters there are Republicans. But this election year, the state's only member of the U.S. House, six-term incumbent Republican Barbara Cubin, could lose her job. Fellow Republicans have come to her rescue, recently spending $250,000 on advertising. This is the same House seat Vice President Dick Cheney once held, and as NPR's Jeff Brady reports, this weekend he was back in Wyoming campaigning.
Vice President DICK CHENEY: Barbara's a credit to Wyoming. She's doing our state proud in Washington, D.C. She's already gotten my vote, I voted early, and I hope she'll have yours.
(Soundbite of applause)
YDSTIE: Even in sparsely populated Wyoming, Dick Cheney can draw a huge crowd. Representative Barbara Cubin is hoping he can also draw votes to rescue her campaign. But just in case, she begins her speeches with what's become the basic message of her campaign advertising.
Representative BARBARA CUBIN (Republican, Wyoming): Like most East Coast liberals, my opponent is a real slick talker.
YDSTIE: Nearly all of Cubin's ads attack Democrat Gary Trauner. That gets this crowd's attention. Then she talks about what she believes in.
Rep. CUBIN: We can cut taxes and grow the economy at the same time and cut the deficit at the same time as well. We can protect our homeland, and we can extend Wyoming's energy boom and protect Wyoming's way of life and our environment all at the same time.
YDSTIE: Cubin is just about even in recent polls with Democrat Trauner. She made a few embarrassing remarks that may have hurt her, one recently to her libertarian opponent. After a debate, Cubin reportedly said that if he weren't in a wheelchair, she'd slap him. Despite such bad moments, Cubin can count on a core of loyal voters who like her opposition to abortion and her membership on the Board of the National Rifle Association.
Ray Metcalf is a Republican from Riverton, Wyoming.
Mr. RAY METCALF (Wyoming Republican): She has an A-plus rating from the NRA, which I know the big NRA plays up here. You know, we, we love our guns here in Wyoming, and we want to keep them forever. So you know, we want people in there that will protect those things for us.
BRADY: Democrat Gary Trauner does not belong to the NRA, but on the campaign trail he's quick to mention he's a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights, You have to be to get elected in Wyoming, he says.
Mr. GARY TRAUNER (Democratic Congressional Candidate): Hello.
Ms. WANDA SANDERS MILLER (Wyoming Resident): Hi, how are you?
Mr. TRAUNER: All right. How are you doing today?
Ms. Miller: Good.
Mr. TRAUNER: Good. I just want to introduce myself. My name is Gary Trauner.
Ms. Miller: Nice to meet you.
Mr. TRAUNER: Nice to meet you. And you may know that I'm running for the United States Congress.
Ms. Miller: I do know that.
BRADY: Most people did not know Trauner until a few months ago. He's been running lots of TV ads. And since January, he's knocked on over 15,000 doors. Wanda Sanders Miller is a Republican, but says she's voting for Trauner. She's concerned about the environmental consequences of the natural gas boom underway in Wyoming, and she says its time for a change.
Ms. Miller: Okay.
Mr. TRAUNER: Obviously, it sounds like you're on my team and I love that.
Ms. MILLER: Yes.
Mr. TRAUNER: And if you can just keep spreading the word before the Election Day, that's the way we're going to get into Congress.
Ms. MILLER: We are really rooting for you. You know, we really are.
Mr. TRAUNER: Thank you.
BRADY: Trauner says voters are talking about healthcare, education, and of course the war. But in Wyoming it doesn't take long for the conversation to come back around to guns. When that happens, Trauner nearly always tells this story.
Mr. TRAUNER: My son just finished hunter safety - my 13-year-old son. We just got him his first bolt action .22 for his birthday this summer. You know, I look forward to going out there with him and enjoying time in the woods and doing what people like to do here in terms of hunting and fishing.
BRADY: Trauner was happy to receive the endorsement of Wyoming's popular Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, who appears headed for re-election. But Trauner tells anyone who will listen that his campaign is independent from the National Democratic Party. Recently, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee offered Trauner what it calls, quote, "red to blue status." That means more money for ads and voter turnout, but also means closer ties with the party. While some Democratic candidates around the country begged for this, Trauner told the D Triple C no thanks, a move that was widely reported in Wyoming at just about the same time polls showed him even with incumbent, Barbara Cubin.
Jeff Brady. NPR News.
JOHN YDSTIE: You're listening to NPR News.
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