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Published: Wednesday, 9/1/2004

Cheney speech to quell rumor he'll leave the Republican ticket

BY FRITZ WENZEL
BLADE POLITICAL WRITER

NEW YORK - When Vice President Dick Cheney steps to the microphone tonight to deliver his acceptance speech for renomination, he will outline familiar campaign themes that have been talked up all week.

He will also put to rest once and for all a familiar rumor that the campaign has mentioned only to deny that he was planning to resign from the Republican ticket to make room for another candidate.

Variations on the rumor have run rampant for months, but many had him suffering a "planned" heart attack at just the right time, giving him a plausible excuse to step off the ticket with honor, making room for someone who might one day make a run for the presidency.

The latest version that cropped up here this week had Arizona Sen. John McCain, fresh off a popular speech to the delegates Monday, jumping into the No. 2 slot.

Scheduling fed that rumor, as Mr. McCain was set to campaign with Mr. Bush this week in the Southwest. Of course, it did not happen.

"There are a couple of issues out there where there is a gulf between what the public thinks and what [is thought] in the eastern corridor," said Dan Bartlett, White House communications director in an interview yesterday. "There are a lot of myths out there. That's one of them."

"Vice President Cheney is a strong asset on this ticket, and the President is proud to have him at his side. I think that [rumor] is Democrats trying to stir the pot."

He said the rumors are no reflection of GOP reluctance to see Mr. Cheney on the ticket.

Betsy DeVos, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, agreed.

"Everyone needs something to speculate on," she said. "The President has been very clear that he has appreciated, respected, and valued the role that Mr. Cheney has played. He is also a very loyal person" to those who serve him well.

Mr. Cheney has been "a very seasoned and wise counselor to the President. His broad range of experience in government, as well as in the private sector, have given him the ability to be an adviser unlike just about anyone else. We have seen the President surround himself with very strong and capable people, which is the mark of a good leader," she said.

Jason Mauk, spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party, said Mr. Cheney is a good fit with the state.

"He has a unique appeal among Ohio voters. Ohioans tend to favor experience over charm when it comes to political leadership, and Dick Cheney is clearly one of the most experienced vice presidents the nation's ever had. He has enormous support among the party base. He's a huge asset to the President, and unlike his opponent, he's qualified to assume the presidency."

Mr. Bartlett said Mr. Cheney is unique in modern American politics.

"What's interesting about this is that we have a vice president who has no intention of being President of the United States; so the guy is really not worried about what you think about him," Mr. Bartlett said.

"He's like 'I'm here to do my job, I'm here to help this President. If they are throwing arrows at me, that means they're not sticking on the President.' And he doesn't mind that. He understands his role. The only thing he cherishes is the counsel he gives to the President."

He said Mr. Cheney will talk about the Bush record of steady leadership in a time of war, and will also focus on the domestic agenda of tax cuts, education, Social Security, and Medicare reform. Of these issues, which except for the war on terror were staples of the 2000 Bush campaign, the White House has made substantial progress, Mr. Bartlett said.

Mr. Cheney will also speak about his working relationship with Mr. Bush.

Contact Fritz Wenzel at:

fritz@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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