Hutchison opens door to No. 2 spot on ticket

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Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the largest Republican vote-getter in the 2006 congressional elections and the most popular Republican in Texas, said yesterday she would consider an offer to run for vice president next year.

“If our party’s nominee called me and said we are putting everything in the grid, and we think you are the best person, would I say no? I can’t imagine that I would say no,” she said.

“Would I seek it or do something to promote it? Absolutely not,” she told editors and reporters of The Washington Times at a meeting at the newspaper.

Mrs. Hutchison, who garnered more than 2.6 million votes in November and defeated her opponent by 62 percent to 36 percent in an overall bad year for Republicans, attributed her popularity, in part, to her stand on Iraq. “People in my state see me as having a few degrees of separation” from the president.

“I do not believe in pre-emptive strikes against foreign countries that have not attacked us, unless they are a threat to our country,” she said. But she also said she believes Mr. Bush thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and therefore was a threat.

“I don’t think we’re in Iraq for the Iraqi people, but for the security of the United States,” she said.

“The president is against me on this, but I think we should be looking more at the Bosnia solution,” she said, which would create in Iraq “semiautonomous regions that hold the country together by the sharing of oil revenues.”

Mrs. Hutchison said she has been working on an alternative draft resolution on Iraq with fellow Senate Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

She said it would avoid “undercutting President Bush internationally,” which the Texas lawmaker said would be the result of resolutions co-sponsored by several Republicans, including one by Virginia Sen. John W. Warner and an even stronger anti-troop “surge” resolution backed by Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican.

With 49 seats, Republicans can hold up Democratic initiatives in the Senate, and as Republican Policy Committee chairman, Mrs. Hutchison, 63, must find ways to restore a cohesiveness to Senate Republicans that began to fracture before the disastrous midterm elections, in which the party suffered a net loss of six seats.

Mrs. Hutchison said she is not seeking a spot on the 2008 Republican presidential ticket — or planning a run for Texas governor in 2010, as some in her state predict.

She did not dispute, however, that she is widely discussed for top offices, including the vice presidency, in part because she is the most conservative and longest-tenured female Republican senator.

An opponent of partial-birth abortion and proponent of parental notification, she has a zero rating from the pro-choice NARAL and a 90 percent rating from the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform.

Her American Conservative Union 91 percent lifetime voting record puts her ahead of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Utah Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, with 90 each.

Mrs. Hutchison, the lead sponsor of a bill in 2005 to repeal the gun-ownership ban in the nation’s capital, said she would reintroduce the legislation this year.

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