GOP faithful greet Bush in Manchester

by Jessica Chen | 11/1/04 6:00am

MANCHESTER, Oct. 29 -- Thousands of Republicans surged to their feet in thunderous applause Friday, as President Bush and Laura Bush entered the packed Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester for one of his final speeches of the presidential campaign. Though Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was originally supposed to accompany Bush at the event, he reportedly was unable to travel due to lack of medical clearance.

Instead, Bush was introduced by Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H. Speaking in an upbeat manner but not mentioning his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, Bush focused his remarks on national security and progress made in the war on terror.

"America and the world are safer," Bush said. "Freedom is on the march."

He emphasized changes made in the international arena in his four years as president, citing Saddam Hussein's capture, Libya's renunciation of nuclear weapons and Afghanistan's recently-held free elections.

In regard to the controversy-ladened boondoggle surrounding the Iraq war and occupation, Bush explained that he would never "cut and run" on the issue.

"We will keep our commitment to our troops. They will have the resources to complete their missions," Bush promised. "Iraq will be free, Iraqis will be secure and terrorists will fail."

Bush also underscored his consistency as president, alluding to others' accusations that Kerry lacked a clear stance on many issues. Following his stump speech routine, he told supporters that though he has many shortcomings, he has always been up-front with the American people.

"Sometimes I'm a little too blunt. I get that from my mother. Sometimes I mangle the English language; I get that from my dad," the president said amidst laughter. "But at all times, you know where I stand, what I believe and where I'm going to lead this country."

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were also a clear theme at the rally, as the president introduced many of the family members of those who lost their lives that day. Among those introduced was David Beamer, whose son, Todd Beamer, led fellow passengers on Flight 93 against the terrorists who hijacked the plane. Bush credited Todd Beamer's heroism as the "first counterattack on the war on terror."

The president concluded his speech with an appeal to the American people to vote for him on Tuesday.

Jena Day of Windham, N.H., whose husband, a decorated Vietnam veteran, sat behind the president on stage, summed up her thoughts on the speech in one word: "inspiring."

Many Dartmouth students present at the rally said they felt the same of the president's speech.

"The president's rally seemed to be an effective tool for energizing his supporters and getting them out to vote," said Torivio Fodder '05, who chairs the New Hampshire College Republicans. "In all, I think the president was effective in communicating a common-sense message that the voters of New Hampshire appreciate and one they will remember when they go to the polls on Tuesday."

Kerry supporters also made their presence known at the rally on Friday by setting up a giant inflated Pinocchio across the street from Verizon Wireless Arena, exhorting Bush to stop telling lies about the Iraq war.

Following his visit in Manchester, Bush left for Portsmouth, N.H., and then to Ohio. Kerry also made an appearance in Manchester on Sunday, as the two candidates rush to make final appeals to swing states in the days before the election.