May 08, 2003
POLITICS: Cheney in 2004, Bush in 2008?
The news that Dick Cheney will be on the ticket again as Vice President in 2004
certainly is a shock to no one. However, at first, it was somewhat surprising to me that Republican Party leaders would not want to think more strategically here and choose someone else to replace Cheney. This got me thinking.
Cheney is clearly valuable figure to Bush as an advisor, especially on foreign
affairs. Yet, I don’t see anything that Cheney does as Vice President that he
couldn’t do equally well as in some other advisory role. Bush listens to him
because he’s Dick Cheney, not because he’s Vice President.
As the story above mentions at the very bottom, the GOP is missing an opportunity to groom a suitable "heir apparent" to Bush. Cheney is viewed by almost everyone as a competent figure but it is hard to see how he will help Bush win any new ground in the next election. The main reason he was chosen last time seems to have been that he would bring “gravitas” to the ticket and offset Bush’s lack of foreign policy experience or knowledge. But does anyone except his most hard-core enemies believe that Bush still lacks foreign policy experience or that his current national defense team (Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, etc…) is not sufficiently capable on its own?
Cheney’s biggest asset on the campaign trail, as I see it, is his lack of
liabilities. Despite the occasional bravado, most Republicans know that the 2004 election is likely to be very close again. None of the various investigations or insinuations against Cheney has produced anything the average person is interested in, his health will never really be held against him and he’s unlikely to do anything stupid before the election. In short, his presence keeps the focus on Bush, which is where the GOP wants it.
It is not brain surgery to say that Bush will either win or lose in 2004. If he loses, that will likely be it for this group anyway and the GOP will have plenty of time to find someone new to step into the leadership vacuum, as is happening with the Democrats right now (although the identity of that person is still anyone’s guess). That someone would have to challenge the Democratic incumbent in 2008.
However, if Bush wins, it seems all but certain that the Democrats are going to
turn to the odious Ms. Clinton in 2008. The Democratic Party inexplicably loves
her and is dying to nominate her for President. The Republicans need to groom a suitably strong candidate to oppose and vanquish her. Dick Cheney will not be that person so it would make a lot of sense to find someone who could be to take over the Vice Presidency.
It is way, way off but right now I see only a few potential 2008 GOP candidates:
John McCain, Colin Powell, Bill Frist, Rudy Giuliani and Jeb Bush. McCain will
be too old and has said he will not run again, Powell is becoming increasingly
unpopular among conservatives, Frist is bogged down in the thankless job of
Senate Majority Leader and has already had some problems and Giuliani may be too liberal for the GOP’s “red state” majority. Also, by the 2008 election,
September 11, 2001, will be far in the past.
That leaves Jeb Bush.
Re-nominating Cheney is both the loyal and, in the short-term, the conservative
choice by President Bush but, viewed through this prism, it could be smart as long-term strategic move after all. If Jeb Bush has designs on running for President, it follows that George W. would know about it and would want him to be the “heir apparent”. Jeb Bush clearly cannot be his brother’s running mate since that would very overtly give off the impression of an exclusive, almost-hereditary dynasty in the White House, an impression that both of them are smart enough to avoid. Therefore, by bringing back the loyal, and politically non-threatening, Cheney, George W. may be helping to set the stage for his brother to emerge on his own terms in 2008.
Just a thought.
A couple of quick comments:
1. I view this as a "non-story" story. They leave the door for replacing him wide open. All he needs to say, whether its true or not, is that doctors have advised him not to run. Thus, technically, nothing's changed here over the last 12 months.
2. Agree that the VP position could be used to groom a heir apparent. However, I'd rather have Cheney close to the wheels of government for another 4 years and deal with 2008 in 2007. After all, few people were thinking of W. when Bob Dole was gearing up to run. In fact, Jeb was more popular than W.
3. If its Jeb in 2008, he'll have a tough time winning. Too many Bushes too soon.
4. Despite #3, I'm not sure I see Hillary winning. For the last 12 years now, her ratings have been highest when she's out of the spotlight. Once she speaks, people get turned off. Not a good characteristic to win a general, national election.
I more or less agree. Jeb Bush would have a real uphill battle. Of course, I never thought much of GWB either until very late in the 2000 campaign.
I have no problem with Cheney as VP and think he's done a great job, I just want to feel some security that the GOP is prepared to run a very strong candidate in 2008. I too have very little faith in Hillary's electability - she really is profoundly unpopular in most of the country - but she can win if the Republicans run a weak enough candidate.
Frist, Rudy and Jeb sounds like plenty of good contenders for one field (if Powell was going to run he would have run years ago). Plus, there's conservative fave Bill Owens, the Colorado governor a National Review cover story called "America's Best Governor."
Also, I assume that if George W. has a preference other than a desire to not take sides, it would be for Jeb as the heir apparent. But no way he'll want a Bush-Bush ticket, nor would he want Jeb to leave his job as Florida governor, nor would he want to annoy Frist by picking someone else as the clear heir apparent.
The only person I could see "grooming" as VP would be Condoleazza Rice, and the GOP more likely wants to groom her to run for Senate or Governor from California.
Agree to all of the above. I think the takeaway is that the conventional wisdom, which incorporates mainstream Democratic hopes, is that the GOP bench is weak on the national level for 2008. However, 4.5 years is a lifetime in politics. There can be plenty of surprises. For instance, Romney?Would be interesting. Rice straight to the presidency? Don't underestimate the GOP's desire to be the first to elect a black woman.
Too bad Rumsfeld is too old. In retrospect, he would have been a great candidate in 1988. Check out eBay -- you can buy one of his campaign pins.
Rumsfeld and McCain are too old, I don't think Jeb is interested yet, others are way too busy in their elected offices to jump up and quit. Powell and Rice have the best name recognition and chance.