- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

NEWS ANALYSIS

Whether George W. Bush names Dick Cheney, Frank Keating or someone else as his vice-presidential choice, four things are clear well, make that "fairly clear."
The announcement probably won't come until after tomorrow at the earliest, Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer told The Washington Times yesterday.
Whoever the No. 2 turns out to be probably will travel with Mr. Bush on all or part of the sweep he has scheduled through key battleground states on his way to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia that begins on July 31, Mr. Fleischer said.
The Texas governor is emerging as the unexpected master of political mystery storytellers. He has kept tension rising over his running mate in what otherwise might be a ho-hum walk-up to the convention that officially will make him the nominee on Aug. 2.
By revealing the choice several days before the convention an untraditional move and having the pair travel together to the convention also unusual Mr. Bush assures that he and his campaign can help control the spin and not allow it to overshadow the carefully choreographed unity celebration that they intend the convention to be.
The press, not the Bush campaign, has made Mr. Cheney, a trusted friend of the Bush family, the top pick for now, replacing Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was the media's top pick a few days ago.
Many Republicans think that is a good thing for party unity. Many party loyalists, and especially conservatives, remain skeptical about Mr. McCain's preoccupation with changing campaign finance rules in a way most insist would further disadvantage Republican candidates and about Mr. McCain's attacks on religious conservatives during his primary contest with Mr. Bush.
Mr. Cheney and Mr. Keating, the Texas governor's personal friend and the popular governor of neighboring Oklahoma, are the top bets of Republican insiders and some pollsters.
Both men are pro-life and are perceived as compassionate or at least conservatives with unthreatening demeanors who sit well with fellow conservatives as well as with Republicans across the board, except with those who are adamantly for abortion rights.
"Cheney adds the heft of the steady hand of experience," said John Zogby, an independent pollster who does surveys for both parties. "He has the proven ability to maneuver through Washington establishment on international and domestic issues."
Mr. Zogby has polled likely voters for various combinations of matchups with possible Bush and Al Gore running mates but not for a Bush-Cheney team, since Mr. Bush had assigned Mr. Cheney the job of selecting and checking the backgrounds of a list of potential running mates.
"Bush leads Gore by the same edge with or without Keating," Mr. Zogby said.
Although Scott Reed, who managed Bob Dole's 1996 campaign, is convinced that Mr. Bush doesn't need Mr. Keating, Mr. Cheney or virtually any other running-mate contender to win at this point, Mr. Reed is confident Mr. Cheney is the man whom Mr. Bush wants by his side through November.
"Bush watched this guy up close for two and a half months and was impressed," Mr. Reed told The Washington Times. "Cheney knows how to set up a White House, knows how to set an agenda. He's a great utility infielder. So picking him represents more of a governing strategy than an election strategy."
Republicans close to the Bush campaign said a Wednesday announcement will allow Mr. Bush and his running mate to do two important things.
One is to campaign together through key states just long enough to keep the novelty of the team fresh and newsworthy before the pair winds up at the convention.
The other is that it will allow Mr. Bush and his newly named running mate to overshadow the deliberations of the Republican rules and platform committee meetings that will take place Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia before the official kickoff of the convention the following Monday.
It is during those platform and rules meetings when some contentiousness over the wording of the now uncompromising anti-abortion plank and squabbling between big and small states over proposed new rules for scheduling presidential nomination primaries for 2004 and beyond is expected.
Mr. Cheney, 59, was a six-term member of Congress from Wyoming who rose to House Republican whip and was boosted to defense secretary by President Bush when his first choice, Sen. John Tower, was attacked by Free Congress Foundation President Paul M. Weyrich for being a heavy drinker and carouser.
Republicans close to the Bush campaign say the purpose of running Mr. Cheney up the veep speculation flagpole was to distract attention from troubling speculation that John McCain was under consideration and to get media-pundit reaction to Mr. Cheney as a serious possibility for vice president. The results were gratifying for Mr. Bush, either way.
The Sunday talk shows yesterday were full not of McCain talk but of pundits' assessments, almost uniformly positive, of Mr. Cheney, whose white hair reveals a patch of scalp and whose face carries the perpetual hint of an amiable smile.
A senior Bush adviser took pains privately to note that Mr. Cheney has good personal working relationship with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, and with Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles, the deputy Republican leader and "can pick up the phone to either of them as an old friend."
Most party stalwarts were as unable to contain their enthusiasm about Mr. Cheney as they were about Mr. Keating, when he was the pick of the day.
"I think Cheney works even better than Keating because this pick is important as the first clear indication of Bush's judgment at the presidential level," said Roland Gunn, a former House Republican leadership aide and Virginia conservative activist.

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