Wednesday, July 26, 2000

Tristate GOP says Cheney wise choice




By Howard Wilkinson and Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Many Republicans were slapping themselves on the forehead Tuesday and wondering why they didn't think of it when they heard former defense secretary Dick Cheney would be George W. Bush's running mate.

        “It makes perfect sense when you think about it,” Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Bennett said. “But until a few days ago, it never occurred to me it would happen.”

        That is because for the past several months, Mr. Cheney has been heading the Republican presidential candidate's search for a running mate, collecting background data and conducting interviews on a long list of potential vice presidential candidates.

        But since Friday, Republicans in the Tristate say they started to see the wisdom in Mr. Bush's choice.

        “I don't think (Bush) could have done better,” said U.S. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has known Mr. Cheney since they both worked in the administration of President Bush.

        “He did what he said he would do — he picked the person best qualified to be president,” said Mr. Portman, of Terrace Park.

        National polls have shown that one concern voters have about Mr. Bush is that he lacks experience with foreign policy and national security issues. Mr. Cheney was defense secretary in the Bush administration during the Persian Gulf War.

Filling in gaps
        George W. Bush has little experience dealing with Congress, but Mr. Cheney has plenty — from serving as White House chief of staff for President Ford and 12 years as a congressman from Wyoming.

        “He's the consummate Washington insider, and I mean that in a good way,” said Bob Elliston, the Turfway Park president who has been active in Northern Kentucky Republican politics.

        As a Wyoming congressman, Mr. Cheney compiled a very conservative voting record on issues like abortion, taxes and spending.

        The consensus among Republicans is that the choice of Mr. Cheney is more about governing than getting elected.

        “Clearly, Bush didn't do this to pick up a key state or give him the votes of a key group,” Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell said.

A solid choice
        Prior to Mr. Cheney's name surfacing as a contender, the conventional wisdom in the party was that Mr. Bush would pick a running mate whose presence on the ticket would help win a battleground state — someone like Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania or Gov. George Pataki of New York.

        The Cheney selection, Mr. Blackwell said, is unlikely to excite the electorate, “but it gives him someone solid who most people believe is perfectly capable of being president.”

        Kenton County Commissioner Adam Koenig, a Villa Hills Republican, expressed some mild concern that Mr. Cheney would not provide much excitement for the GOP ticket.

        He said, “He's obviously as smart as you can get ... but I'm sure that (Mr. Bush) has polling data that shows he has a good chance of winning so he doesn't need somebody like (Gov.) Tom Ridge to carry Pennsylvania.”

        Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, the Bush campaign chairman in the state, praised the selection of Mr. Cheney.

        “I think it demonstrates that Mr. Bush is looking to govern effectively as much as winning the election,” he said. “(Mr. Cheney) will be a very seasoned partner with a lot of experience.”

        The governor brushed aside suggestions from some Democrats that Mr. Bush needs Mr. Cheney to cover up his weaknesses in defense issues and on foreign policy.

        “I think that Gov. Bush has demonstrated his executive ability in Texas where he has dealt very successfully with domestic issues,” Mr. Taft said.

        Spencer Hunt contributed.

       



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