- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 8, 2004

Vice President Dick Cheney displays a veteran campaigner’s glee in forsaking “undisclosed locations” for high-profile barnstorming across the country to tout President Bush and support Republican candidates for the House and Senate.

Let his opponents continue to hammer Mr. Cheney over Halliburton Co., the Texas oil-and-energy company he ran that won huge and much-questioned federal contracts for work in post-war Iraq. Bush-Cheney campaign officials view the soft-spoken, in-the-know vice president as a huge draw for all wings of the Republican Party.

“He is one of the best-positioned and most articulate advocates of the president’s agenda,” says Mary Matalin, a former senior Cheney adviser in the White House who now works for the re-election campaign. “Not only is he a great communicator, because he’s cerebral and he’s comprehensive, but he’s also had a big hand in the breadth of the portfolio of the critical issues. …

“He’s got the intellectual heft, and he’s got the breadth and depth of experience to give perspective to it.”

On the campaign trail, Mr. Cheney, 63, does not shy away from talking about conservative issues, including opposition to homosexual “marriage” and support of the ban on partial-birth abortion.

“During the past 3 years, President Bush has defended our society’s fundamental rights and values,” he said last week in Kennewick, Wash. “We stand for fair treatment of faith-based charities. … We stand for the culture of life, and we reject the brutal practice of partial-birth abortion.

“We believe that our nation is ‘One Nation Under God,’ and we believe that Americans ought to be able to say ‘Under God’ when they pledge allegiance to the flag.”

Mr. Cheney also taps into the bitterness of conservatives over what he calls “obstructionist tactics” used by Democrats in the Senate to block several “sensible, mainstream nominees” for judgeships.

But Mrs. Matalin says the vice president draws support from all quarters of his party.

“It’s not just the base, it’s the rank-and-file Republicans, who just love his integrity and who he is and his gravity,” she says. “He’s a huge asset on the campaign trail.”

In the past two weeks, Mr. Cheney traveled to nine states: Washington, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota, Arkansas, Missouri and Minnesota. And he seems to relish this time on the trail, as when he mentions his Democratic opponent for the No. 2 spot, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

“People keep telling me — they say Senator Edwards got picked because he’s charming, good looking, sexy. I said, ‘How do you think I got the job?’” Mr. Cheney quipped in a stump speech in Salt Lake City, his sixth in three days.

This serious career politician also jokes about his history of heart ailments, as he did with a supporter at a campaign stop in Washington who asked “How’s your health?”

A smiling Mr. Cheney said he undergoes routine checks from a team of doctors. After his last exam, the vice president said, “They’ve certified me for another 30,000 miles.”

Mr. Cheney also is showing a more personal side, opening up about his wife, Lynne, whom he met when he was 14.

“We grew up together, went to high school together. And next month, we’ll celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary,” Mr. Cheney told one crowd, eliciting applause and a chorus of “awwws.”

When rumors erupted this summer that Mr. Bush planned to replace Mr. Cheney on the ticket, the president repeatedly dispelled them. He continues to reiterate Mr. Cheney’s qualifications.

“I picked him because he’s solid. I picked him because he’s got good advice and great experience,” Mr. Bush said last week in Ohio. “I picked him because he’s a good man.”

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