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Cheney Fans Pro-GOP Fires in California


COSTA MESA — The biggest cheer from the Republican faithful in Orange County came Sunday for a punch line Dick Cheney has delivered for weeks.

"In less than 48 hours, everyone will begin casting their votes. That'll mark the end of a great campaign," he told a crowd of about 5,000 gathered at the Orange County Fairgrounds. "It also will mark the end of the Clinton-Gore era."

Cheney devoted his entire campaign day to California, a curious expenditure of time and effort that belied Vice President Al Gore's solid lead in the Democratic-leaning state. His trip to Republican strongholds such as Orange County and the well-to-do suburbs north of San Diego seemed an effort to boost turnout and help a number of local candidates in tight races.

With retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell at his side, the Republican vice presidential nominee began his day at the San Dieguito United Methodist Church in Encinitas. Cheney also was joined by his wife, Lynne, and the rest of his immediate family. Cheney did not speak during the hourlong service, although references were made to the campaign by a parishioner--who cited "fuzzy math" in his calculations for the church building fund--and by the pastor.

Looking out at the congregation, the Rev. Charles Hoffman jokingly offered to get his church to vote as a bloc in exchange for some contributions to church coffers. But after noting he had Democrats, Republicans and independents among his faithful, he said: "I don't think that's possible."

After church, Cheney and Powell attended a rally at the nearby Del Mar County Fairgrounds. Powell, who served with Cheney in President Bush's administration, promised the crowd "leadership that will restore dignity to the White House." The pumped-up audience responded with shouts of "No more Gore!"

Cheney, who served as Defense secretary, told supporters his choice of Powell for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was "next to marrying my wife, the best decision I ever made." He then delivered his standard speech, criticizing Democratic presidential nominee Gore's spending proposals and charging that President Clinton's administration has allowed the military to fall into disrepair.

Cheney also accused the Democratic ticket of trying to scare senior citizens by saying GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush's proposals would undermine Social Security.

"As we get down to the closing days of the campaign, we've seen a lot of negative stuff flying around out there," he said. "I think, frankly, all of us are getting a little tired of the way the Clinton-Gore routine works."

Cheney got in many familiar digs and insults. He sharply questioned Gore's truthfulness concerning the state of the U.S. military.

And Cheney once again ridiculed Gore for comparing himself with Goldilocks--the vice president has described his three debate performances as too hot, too cold and then just right.

"I don't know about you, but if I interviewed a guy for a job who compared himself to Goldilocks, I wouldn't hire him," Cheney said.

After his stop in Orange County, Cheney flew north to the Bay Area for a rally in Pleasanton. He will campaign today in Nevada, Washington and Oregon.

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