Dick Cheney may be a safe choice, but he's certainly not an exciting one. This means there's still a tough fight ahead. In my view, if the pick had been Colin Powell or John McCain, the race would have been over.
In addition, Cheney may bring some problems. A Democratic strategist once told me he thought George Bush won the presidency the first time because he picked Dan Quayle, and lost it the second time because he failed to dump him. Until he picked Quayle, the rap on Bush was that he was a wimp. By standing behind his choice in the face of a huge press attack and actually going in the face of Dan Rather -- an icon of the left-wing press corps -- Bush showed that he had the strength to be president. But by not dumping Quayle on the second go around, he showed that he was not really willing to take a second look at mistakes he had made. The voters preferred to go with fresh faces who would.
Whether this analysis is right or wrong it highlights the fact that it is not just who gets picked that makes the difference, but the process of the picking itself. In picking Cheney, George W. Bush has run the risk of seeming insecure or, worse, looking backward.
On the other hand, Cheney is a substantial figure who inspires confidence, particularly on foreign policy and defense, where Bush, for reasons not wholly justified or in his control, has sometimes looked weak. Cheney is so heavily identified with foreign policy, picking him may take abortion off the radar screen. With Govs. Tom Ridge or Frank Keating, the entire focus was on their stand on abortion. Because it may help Bush sidestep the troublesome abortion issue, this is a sensible pick that Republicans can be comfortable with.