County GOP roasts pig, preps for election

By Thomas Wilson
star staff
twilson@starhq.com

  Pork-barrel politics took on a different meaning Saturday afternoon as the Carter County Republican Party held a "pig roast" fundraiser at Sycamore Shoals State Park.
  Hundreds turned out as county Republicans gathered in support of GOP candidates from the local level to Presidential race. U.S. Rep. Bill Jenkins who spoke at the rally said President Bush appeared to be surging in battleground states of Ohio, Missouri, and West Virginia.
  "The president has the momentum to win the election," Jenkins said.
  The county's Republican and Democratic parties held their annual fundraisers three years to the day of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against America. Heavily Republican East Tennessee played an enormous role in helping Bush win the state over Tennessean Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election.
  County GOP Chairman Jay Nidiffer felt the president had maintained a level of security since the 9-11 attacks. He also praised the speech of Democratic Sen. Zell Miller at the Republican National Convention last month praising President Bush's handling of the nation's reaction to the terrorist attacks.
  "Zell Miller spoke from the heart," said Nidiffer. "We have to be ready to step up."
  A poll of registered voters taken last week by The Associated Press and the Ipsos organization found Republican ticket of Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney led the Democratic ticket of Kerry and Sen. John Edwards by 51 percent to 43 percent, a bounce in support since early August, when Kerry-Edwards led 48-45 percent.
  "I think he has a wonderful chance of being our president again," said county GOP officer Bob Cable.
   President Bush has weathered criticism for what appears to be a murky service record during his time in the National Guard. Vice President Dick Cheney rankled Democrats last week when he suggested the nation was prone to a similar attack if Democratic ticket of Kerry and John Edwards went into office.
  Jenkins said he couldn't comment on the vice president's intentions, but stated a series of terrorist attacks leveled at American interests abroad during the Clinton administration went unpunished. Republicans have also repeatedly attacked Kerry's service record while the GOP donor -backed group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth blasted his active duty service in Vietnam.
  The Swift Boat Veterans group has pocketed at least $6.7 million since it was founded in April, according to a report the group filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission. That includes at least $1.9 million in donations of $1,000 or more, with several coming in from people who previously gave to President Bush's re-election campaign and the GOP.
  Rally attendee Mike Hodge of Elizabethton said he felt Republican candidates such as Jenkins and state House nominee Jerome Cochran upheld values still important to small town America.
  Regarding the president's military record, Hodge said the effort was there regardless of the details.
  "He made an attempt to serve," said Hodge, a U.S. Navy veteran who did his military service during Desert Storm. "I don't think it has much bearing on what we are doing now."
  Democrats have also criticized the Bush administration's advocacy of the Fairpay Overtime Initiative redefining overtime pay for millions of workers. This U.S. Department of Labor touted the measure to strengthen overtime rights for 6.7 million American workers, including 1.3 million low-wage workers who were denied overtime under the old rules.
  The initiative was defeated in the House last week as members of both parties voted in opposition. Jenkins said the president's initiative was motivated after hearing from workers who favored more time off rather than overtime pay.
  "Nobody wants to control people's overtime," said Jenkins, who is being challenged for his 1st Congressional District seat by Democratic nominee Graham Leonard.