Don’t rule out Cheney,” counsels a GOP strategist with good Austin antennae in the final days of the veep-choice countdown.
The recent speculation is that Governor Bush just might look across the table during a discussion on the merits of the candidates who have been vetted by the former Defense Secretary, and say, “What about you, Dick?” This actually makes a lot of sense.
There are two theories of Bush that are driving pundit speculation about his pick. One says that he will go for a bold, totally unexpected pick to confound expectations. The other says that Bush will make a cautious choice, in keeping with the high value he puts on loyalty and his personal connection with the people around him.
It is the second theory that is most convincing, as demonstrated by the Bush operation — no staff shake-ups, no back-biting leaks, totally loyal, nothing but the relentless focus on getting their man elected. It is Cheney’s strength that — despite being a “surprise” in the sense that he hasn’t topped pundits’ lists from the beginning of the process — he is a natural fit for the Bush of the cautious theory.
Dick Cheney, with his Bush family connections, has been a contender since his name first surfaced as an elder GOP statesman with D.C. experience to complement the young-outsider nominee. Since then, he was tapped by Bush to screen vice-presidential candidates. The totally leak-free process he has overseen has no doubt impressed the leak-averse Governor, and allowed him to appreciate the sound counsel Cheney provides.
By working on this sensitive task, Cheney has in effect joined the extremely close troika of top confidants in the Bush campaign. Although other frequently mentioned candidates are well known to the Governor, none of them have had Cheney’s opportunity to display his trustworthiness and judgment in the presence of Bush directly.
Picking Cheney would almost be elevating a member of his own staff. And, remember, even in the dark days following the primary losses, Bush’s faith in his senior staff seemed never to waver, and he ignored the calls to enlarge his tiny inner circle.
If Dick Cheney’s recent performance has moved him into the Governor’s confidence zone, Bush could well decide he want to go with him — because, among other things, he will have proven himself a tested ally.