Vice President Dick Cheney arrived in Reno Friday evening on the eve of a busy day of appearances that also will take him to two other Western battleground states - Arizona and New Mexico,
The vice president addresses the national convention of the Disabled American Veterans on Saturday morning, then heads to Tucson, Ariz., and a Bush-Cheney '04 rally followed by a Victory 2004 rally in the Albuquerque, N.M., suburb of Rio Rancho.
Cheney, wearing cowboy boots, light blue jeans and a casual tan jacket, stepped off Air Force Two with his wife Lynne and former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., to be greeted by Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval, Adjutant General Giles Vanderhoof and other top state military officials.
"We just exchanged pleasantries," Sandoval said. "He asked, `Did you make the weather for me?'"
The vice president landed under clear skies with temperatures in the mid 90s. About 100 people were on hand for the closed arrival, most of them wearing uniforms.
He and his wife entered one of two waiting limousines for a quick trip to the Reno Hilton, where he will speak on Saturday.
It's Cheney's third visit to Nevada this year. Last month Cheney campaigned in Henderson and President Bush spoke in Reno. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, made fund-raising trips to Reno and Las Vegas.
"It shows you Nevada is definitely in play," said Eric Herzik, a Republican political analyst and professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. "Bush won it by fewer than 20,000 votes last time, and it could be even closer this time."
Like Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico are considered battleground states in which the presidential race is too close to call. Nevada and New Mexico have five electoral votes each. Arizona has 10.
Voter registration in Nevada is nearly split, with Republicans holding a 1 percent edge.
A statewide poll of likely Nevada voters conducted last week for the Las Vegas Review-Journal shows the race a virtual dead heat with the Republican ticket of Cheney and President Bush leading the Democratic ticket of John Kerry and John Edwards 46 percent to 43 percent. Seven percent were undecided, and 4 percent went for Ralph Nader, who heads the independent ticket.
The poll of 625 voters was conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts has twice visited Las Vegas in 2004. Neither he nor his or his running mate, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, have campaigned in northern Nevada.
Kerry and Edwards are scheduled to visit Nevada in the next three weeks during the campaign's "Believe in America Tour" of 21 states, according to a campaign statement. Details were unavailable.
On Saturday Cheney was to be accompanied by Anthony Principi, Veterans Affairs secretary, and Gibbons, the only member of congress to serve in the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.
Dave Gorman, executive director of the DAV, said the organization had invited Bush and Kerry along with Cheney.
"We're disappointed that we're only going to get one side," he said.
Disabled American Veterans is a nonprofit organization with 1 million members. The group has no political action committee, does not endorse candidates and has a membership that reflects the political spectrum, according to its Web site.
On the Net:
Disabled American Veterans Web site: http://www.dav.org
Bush-Cheney '04: http://www.georgewbush.com/