- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2000

DEARBORN, Mich. George W. Bush said yesterday that Sen. John McCain, the rival he defeated in the Republican presidential primaries, will be among the numerous candidates to whom he will talk about the No. 2 spot on the ticket.

"I know he's said he's not interested, but until I talk to him and find out how interested or not interested he is, I'll give him consideration," Mr. Bush said at a news conference.

Mr. McCain's spokesman, Todd Harris, said in reply, "Talk like this is always flattering, whether it's from Governor Bush or [Minnesota Gov.] Jesse Ventura. However, Senator McCain has made it more than clear that he is not interested in being vice president."

Mr. McCain last month suspended his bid for the GOP nomination after falling far behind in a sometimes-brutal campaign against Mr. Bush. The Arizona senator won seven primaries, attracting support from independents and Democrats that could be helpful in November.

While Mr. McCain has said repeatedly and forcefully that he's not interested in the No. 2 spot on the ticket, Mr. Bush said the topic may well come up on May 9 in Pittsburgh when they have their first meeting since the primaries.

"As I walk into the meeting, I'll take him for his word, but I do want to visit with him," said Mr. Bush. "He's been pretty outspoken about his opinions, but I really want to look him in the eye and visit with him."

Mr. Bush added that "there will be a lot of people who will be given consideration."

Mr. Bush's campaign theme for the day was affordable housing, and at a rebuilt home in Battle Creek he called for a $1.7 billion tax break for developers who build for low-income residents. Later in the day, he held a roundtable discussion with housing experts, but the focus shifted to politics.

Standing next to Mr. Bush at a news conference was Michigan Gov. John Engler, who was frequently mentioned as a potential running mate until Mr. Bush lost the Michigan primary badly.

Mr. Bush said "of course" he would give Mr. Engler consideration.

"In spite of the fact that we had a rough go here in the Michigan primary, he's still an ally," Mr. Bush said. "I like him a lot."

Mr. Bush is routinely asked about selecting a running mate, and he usually deflects those questions.

Yesterday, he was asked about Mr. Engler, but on his own declared, "I'll give John McCain consideration."

Asked if he planned to raise the issue May 9, Mr. Bush said, "I might, depending on how the conversation goes."

Before shifting to politics, Mr. Bush offered the latest in a series of housing initiatives. This proposal includes a five-year program giving developers a tax credit worth up to 10 percent a year on the cost of building homes in low-income areas.

Mr. Bush, speaking of the working poor on the lawn of a rebuilt home, said, "The purpose of the program is not just to provide shelter, but shelter that somebody can say, 'This is mine.' When you own a home, it not only enhances the community, it makes the schools better because you have a certain sense of stability."

The Texas governor won his party's presidential nomination by energizing core Republican voters, but since then he has worked to moderate his image and court voters not traditionally attracted to the GOP.

Aides to rival Vice President Al Gore dismissed the new proposal, arguing it was yet another example of Mr. Bush promising something he hasn't delivered as governor of Texas.

Documents furnished by Mr. Bush's campaign said competition among developers for the credits probably would drive the value lower than the total of 50 percent over five years. Up to 20,000 homes a year could be developed because of the incentives, the campaign estimated.

Mr. Bush offered his proposal at the home of Oberrion Gibson, a 67-year-old worker at a foster care center for the mentally retarded.

Mrs. Gibson lived in the neighborhood for 34 years before her home was razed in September and replaced with a new home. Construction was made possible by a 4.5 percent loan from a nonprofit neighborhood development group.

"I didn't want to leave the neighborhood," said Mrs. Gibson, who qualified for the program because of her low-income status. She makes about $8 an hour.

Previously, Mr. Bush has called for programs in which the federal government would match the down payment of a low-income resident seeking to buy a home, and to allow rent-assistance money to be used to purchase a home.

In total, Mr. Bush would spend $3.7 billion over five years on affordable housing programs, aides said.

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