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Fiery speech at convention stirs passions on Democrat Miller

CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio -- There are a few golden terms that always light up a Republican crowd: Culture of life. Frivolous lawsuits.

And now, Zell Miller.

''You heard Zell Miller the other night," Bush said at a rally in Kirtland, Ohio, yesterday, drawing thunderous applause. ''He represents a lot of folks who understand that, with four more years, Dick Cheney and I will make this country safer, stronger, and better."

Bush offered no explanation of who Miller is. There was no need.

Less than a week after his searing keynote address at the Republican National Convention, Miller, the 72-year-old Georgia Democrat, has risen from virtual anonymity to iconic status -- loathed by his fellow Democrats, but deified by conservatives and Bush supporters nationwide. Mere mention of his name has sent screams of adoration through solidly Republican crowds in Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Ohio in the two days since Bush left the festivities in New York.

''I talked to Zell this morning, and I told him, 'You could run for mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, or Milwaukee,' " Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman told reporters during yesterday's Ohio bus tour.

What made Miller an overnight success was that he said far more than what Bush gives him credit for on the stump -- fiery remarks that Bush himself would not dare utter. Miller called his fellow Democrat, Senator John F. Kerry, ''more wrong, more weak, and more wobbly than any other national figure." He attacked Democratic Party leaders for their ''warped way of thinking," saying they did not believe there is a terrorist threat outside the US borders. At times, Miller all but attacked his party's patriotism -- bringing Democratic accusations he had gone too far.

Mehlman said he read Miller's speech before the keynote address Wednesday night. Asked whether Bush agrees with every statement Miller made, Mehlman said he did not know, but did not pick out any areas of disagreement. ''I haven't specifically discussed the speech with him [Bush], but the fact is, he's traveling to places Zell's not from and saying what a great guy Zell is," Mehlman said. ''I think the president thought that Senator Miller's speech was a good speech." 

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