George W. Bush will lose his final surviving rival for the Republican nomination when Alan Keyes drops out. According to Reuters, the conservative commentator will quit next week, partly because Bush chose Dick Cheney for the bottom of the ticket. "His work is done now that the Republican Party has adopted a pro-life platform and pro-life running mate," said Keyes spokeswoman Connie Hair. Despite his support for the Cheney nomination, however, Keyes has yet to endorse Bush and has announced no plans to do so.
Though Keyes hung in the longest and got great early reviews for his oratorical fire, his candidacy never converted enthusiasm into big votes. Though he took in more than $12 million in donations, he earned only about 20 delegates in the primaries.
Gore says GOP "talk is cheap"
Keyes, the only black presidential contender in the two major parties, ran under the Republican flag. But Al Gore warned minority leaders that the GOP has only token interest in their views, the Associated Press reports. "You know from hard history and long struggle that talk is cheap, deeds are what counts," Gore told board members from Operation PUSH in Chicago. "The true test is whether you are willing to stand up and fight for real jobs and real opportunities for all our people." Rev. Jesse Jackson, the group's founder, used even stronger language to condemn Republicans, and singled out veep nominee Cheney. "Beneath the veneer lies an individual of extreme views," Jackson said of Cheney, citing the former congressman's record on women's rights, civil rights and programs for children. "We deserve better than that."
Daddy's man for daddy's boy
The punditocracy hasn't been universally supportive of the Cheney nomination either. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd counts herself among the veep pick skeptics. Rather than to please voters, Dowd argues, Bush obviously made the pick to please dear old dad. "The head-scratching choice of Dick Cheney is explained by the fact that he was in the bunker during the family's finest hour," Dowd writes, citing Cheney's service to the elder Bush during his Gulf War triumphs. Swing voters, however, are likely to be displeased by other parts of Cheney's record, including his votes as a Wyoming congressman against Head Start, environmental programs and even the mildest of gun regulations. For Poppa Bush and his cadre of advisors, Dowd has some advice for the future: "Before the Bushes mess up any more vice-presidential picks, for Jeb or George P., they might want to stop checking their gut and start checking the voting record."
Good for a win, but not for winning
On the other coast, Ronald Brownstein in the Los Angeles Times makes a slightly more generous appraisal of Cheney's gifts, but finds potential potholes on the road to a Bush White House that Cheney is unfit to fill. Cheney's great as long as the Texas governor keeps a big lead, "but many party operatives [worry] that Bush may have squandered a chance to strengthen his electoral position by selecting a running mate with few obvious political assets," Brownstein says. First, Cheney hails from Wyoming, a tiny state that is already in the GOP's pocket, giving Bush little added electoral college weight. Second, Cheney's rock-ribbed conservatism won't appeal to the independent voters who might have flocked to a Bush/McCain ticket. Last, the veep choice may remind voters of the critical Democratic rap against Bush -- that he's a closet conservative who can't make a decision without holding his daddy's hand.
The opposition grins
Perhaps it's a political head game, but Democrats were practically high-fiving one another over the Cheney choice, according to CBS News. The Bush campaign chatter about a surprise pick from the national stage had the Dems sweating over needing to beat crowd pleasers Liddy Dole, Colin Powell or John McCain with their veep selection. With Cheney, Gore has "a totally free hand," pollster Geoff Garin argues. The Democratic hopeful may give a new look at elder statesmen like George Mitchell to balance Cheney's stature, but Garin asserts that the former defense secretary is a constituency-free candidate. "Cheney does not affect a single vote that Gore is going after," he said.
Dick pick caught in Dems' web
While it's not surprising that the Democrats had little good to say about Cheney, their slams have appeared in a surprising place. The Associated Press reports that the Democratic Party has already set up a Cheney-bashing Web site at a plum address. The site, www.bush-cheney.net, sports an oil well spewing dollar bills, refers to Cheney's oil ties and features the standard unflattering picture of Bush and Cheney together. The former defense secretary's elevation has also given Democrats a chance to resurrect Newt Gingrich, their favorite beast. Topping the site is a Gingrich quote in which the ex-speaker declares, "Cheney's voting record was slightly more conservative than mine."
When word first leaked that Bush had chosen Cheney, Jay Leno jokingly called the duo the "Wizard of Oz" ticket: Bush needs a brain and Cheney needs a heart. While doctors have declared Cheney fit to run despite his multiple heart attacks, ABC News reports that there's no guarantee his health problems won't return. The life of a campaign road warrior may not help, according to Dr. Anthony DeMaria, past president of the American College of Cardiology and chief heart expert at the University of California at San Diego. "The consensus among physicians is that stress has an adverse effect on heart disease," DeMaria says. "Although some people thrive on stressful situations, others have the opposite response." Cheney suffered three mild heart attacks in his 30s and 40s, all during election years, before undergoing quadruple-bypass surgery in 1988.
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