Cheney addresses campaign volunteers at the state fair

Stephanie Kudrle

Vice President Dick Cheney visited the Minnesota State Fair on Monday, but he wasn’t allowed to eat any deep-fried food, especially the cheese curds.

The vice president, who has a long history of heart problems, was in Minnesota for the second time this summer to campaign for President George W. Bush.

Cheney spoke to a crowd of about 400 supporters, most of them volunteers with his campaign, at the Grandstand before packaging and selling cookies at the Sweet Martha’s Cookie Jar booth.

During his speech, he called the recent Republican National Convention a success, and said Minnesota was important to Republicans this year.

“Minnesota is a vital state in this election,” he said. “And we’re on the home stretch.”

Steve Schuster, a Gophers season-ticket holder and former University student, said he was glad to get the chance to see Cheney speak.

“We didn’t intend on seeing him,” Schuster said. “But I said let’s go and see if we can get in and it was really exciting.”

Schuster said he was seated on the front risers because he was wearing a University sweatshirt.

In a tent that blew with every wind gust, Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Gov. Tim Pawlenty joined the vice president to tout George W. Bush’s accomplishments and take jabs at Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry.

“Leadership matters,” Coleman said, as the crowd cheered and repeated after him. “We need a president that doesn’t just follow public opinion.”

After praising Bush for his tax cuts and efforts against terrorism, Cheney spoke about plans for a second term.

He said affordable health care was an important issue to the president and that Bush’s tax cuts would help small businesses offer health care at affordable prices.

“Sixty percent of Americans without health-care coverage are small-business owners or employees,” he said. “We need to help small businesses.”

National security is also very important, Cheney said. He talked about important decisions facing the country after Sept. 11, 2001, and said it was necessary to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

“We had to go on the offense,” he said. “It’s not enough to go on the defense.”

After his speech, Cheney took questions from the crowd. He answered questions about education, the idea of “two Americas” and what his favorite food was at the fair.

Some people who went to the fair to see Cheney left disappointed. Despite extra chairs in the back rows of the tent, which were quickly folded up and put away when the event started, not everybody was allowed into the tent to see Cheney speak.

University students Tom Schaefer and Maija Boitman traveled to the fair to see Cheney but could not get in because they were told the event was only open to volunteers.

The two College Republicans said they were disappointed about not getting to see the vice president.