US Vice President Dick Cheney has stepped up his attacks on Senator John Kerry in the campaign's final days, repeatedly telling audiences in every state he visits that Kerry is unfit to serve as president and will "say or do anything" to get elected.
"Senator Kerry does not have the judgment or the conviction that America needs in a president," Cheney declared during a rally here on Sunday.
That is his core message, repeated several times in every appearance for the last few weeks. But it may not be breaking through in the news media as much as Republicans would like: Local reporters in swing states say they are so inundated by candidates and events that they do not always consider his remarks newsworthy, especially when he sticks to the same stump speech.
"The vice president is extremely consistent in his message; he stays right on point, but we've heard it all already," Hollis Towns, the managing editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, said in an interview. Cheney has been in Ohio twice in recent days.
Most candidates rely on stump speeches during long campaigns. But the editors and others said Cheney was far more reliant on his than President George W. Bush or other candidates are on theirs.
Closely contested states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida are subject to so many candidate visits late in the race, sometimes two or more each day, that editors and television news directors have a difficult time sending reporters to cover all of them. Cheney made four stops in Florida in a 24-hour period last week, three in Pennsylvania and two each in Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin.
With so many candidate visits, "we try, but we don't have enough staff to do everything," said Barbara Maushard, news director for WISN, the ABC affiliate in Milwaukee. Editors and news directors say they are looking for "anything that is new that we can build on" to distinguish the latest visit from the last one, sometimes just the day before.
The problem is that by and large, Cheney's remarks seldom vary. With small changes, he has been making more or less the same speech for weeks, though the verb-iage dedicated to attacking Kerry has increased in recent days. His speech here was a shorter version of one delivered Saturday in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, which was virtually word-for-word the same as one delivered the day before.
Columbus Dispatch editor Ben Marrison said: "If they just hit the internal play button and recite the stump speech, that doesn't inspire us to give it good play."