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Ehrlich rallies Bush supporters in Franklin County, Pa.

October 14, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Maryland is not one of the so-called battleground states in the presidential election, but Gov. Robert Ehrlich was in Pennsylvania Wednesday trying to energize Republicans and get the Keystone State into the Bush column on Nov. 2.

"I'm just here to pump you up," Ehrlich told a crowd of about 100 Bush supporters at the Capitol Theatre. "Winning Pennsylvania is the key to this election and everyone knows it."

Bush lost Pennsylvania to Al Gore in 2000 by 5 percentage points.

Ehrlich urged Republicans "to go the extra mile" to drum up support for the Bush-Cheney ticket.

"This race has an opportunity not to be close and Pennsylvania is a cornerstone of that goal," Ehrlich said.

Of Wednesday's debate between President Bush and Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry, Ehrlich said Bush "will never be the best debater, but I don't care.

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"The ability to deliver a one-liner, or a smart-alecky quote ... That's not leadership," said Ehrlich. He said voters should look at the candidates' deeds more than their words.

"These are two candidates with records. One is the most liberal member of the Senate," he said, referring to Kerry. "He has a 20-year record straight down left field on every issue."

"I have never met a political leader more secure in his or her own skin that George W. Bush," Ehrlich said. He said political leaders have "gut checks every day" and Bush's instincts have been right on the war on terrorism, lower taxes and other issues.

After accepting a unit patch from a soldier on leave from service in Iraq, Ehrlich said of terrorists, "The best thing for the United States to do is take them down where they are."

In answer to a question from a Vietnam veteran, Ehrlich said there was little for either side to gain by questioning Kerry's war service or Bush's with the Air National Guard. Kerry's actions after he returned from Vietnam are another matter, he said.

"He accused you and your entire generation of war crimes and he never backed it up," Ehrlich said.

On most domestic issues except tax cuts, Ehrlich said people tend to favor Democratic positions that call for higher spending. Republicans, he said, have to fight for their positions on domestic policies.

"To the extent that we play defense, we'll lose, particularly with the national press," he said.

Ehrlich said he believes polls showing the race to be close are accurate. "The president is within the margin of error, but ahead in nearly every battleground state," he said.

In Maryland, Ehrlich said, a poll showed Kerry leading Bush by 49 to 43 percent. Bush lost the state by 17 percentage points in 2000, he said.

Ehrlich said he will stump for Bush on Friday in three other battleground states - West Virginia, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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