Bush confirms Cheney will be his running mate

Former White House chief of staff will run as the Republican Vice-Presidential choice or, as Democrats say, the retro-candidate
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The Independent US

After three days of fevered speculation, the Republican Party's presidential ticket was finalised yesterday when the nominee, George W Bush, confirmed that he had chosen Richard Cheney, former Congressman, former White House chief of staff and former Defense Secretary, to be his running mate.

After three days of fevered speculation, the Republican Party's presidential ticket was finalised yesterday when the nominee, George W Bush, confirmed that he had chosen Richard Cheney, former Congressman, former White House chief of staff and former Defense Secretary, to be his running mate.

Mr Bush broke the news to Mr Cheney in a dawn phone call to his home in Dallas; he later revealed his choice to reporters in Austin and planned a joint rally at the University of Texas in the afternoon. Mr Cheney, his columnist wife, Lynne, and their daughter, Elizabeth, flew to Austin for lunch with the Bushes at the Texas Governor's mansion.

At the weekend, Mr Cheney, 59, is expected to accompany Mr Bush on a five-day trip through Middle America that will culminate in their arrival, together, in Philadelphia for the final day of the Republican Convention next week. Senior Republicans, including disappointed contenders for the slot, rallied around Mr Cheney, describing him as an excellent choice and an ideal complement to Mr Bush.

Senator John McCain, defeated by Mr Bush in a bitter primary campaign but stillenjoying wide support, said Mr Cheney would be "an outstanding Vice-President ... and one who will garner significant support throughout the party and the country".

A Bush-McCain ticket had been seen by many, not only Republicans, as offering Mr Bush an almost failsafe route to the White House. But Mr McCain had said he would not accept the number two slot, even if it was offered.

But some eyebrows were raised by Mr Bush selecting the very person he had entrusted with the task of finding him a running mate. Mr Cheney, a trusted friend of the Bushes, was chairman of the search committee and in charge of obtaining information - including extensive dossiers with personal financial and other information - from the shortlisted candidates. He knows a great deal about individuals who might find themselves nominated for cabinet posts in the event of a Bush victory.

The Cheney rumours started last Friday after sources said he had made a brief trip to Wyoming, where he has a farm, to register as a voter there. The US Constitution discourages a presidential ticket where both candidates come from the same state.

If Mr Cheney had not changed his registration, Mr Bush could have been deprived of all the electoral college votes from Texas, votes that could be crucial if the election is as close as predicted.

Mr Cheney, who has suffered three heart attacks and underwent a quadruple bypass operation 12 years ago, had spent a day at a Washington hospital late last week for checks to confirm his fitness.

In the camp of Mr Bush's Democratic White House rival, Vice-President Al Gore, the mood was quietly upbeat. Mr Bush's decision to plump for a politically "safe" Washington insider, and a white male to boot, was described as timid.

Not only does the selection of Mr Cheney pre-empt that pressure, it offers the Gore campaign several new lines of attack.

By yesterday, Mr Cheney's health record was already the butt of talkshow jokes. His last-minute change of voter registration also exposes him to accusations of dubious sleight of hand, because Mr Cheney's primary residence now is clearly Texas, though he represented Wyoming for 11 years in Congress.

Above all, Mr Cheney's position as Defense Secretary in the administration of George Bush Senior enables the Gore team to present George W Bush as a creature of his father.

Or, as Democratic campaigners were dubbing him yesterday, a "retro-candidate".

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