July 25, 2000 -- Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush this morning asked Dick Cheney to be his running mate and the former defense secretary has accepted, ABCNEWS has learned.
Bush is expected to make a public announcement today at 3 p.m. ET in Austin, Texas.
Cheney, a former congressman and Cabinet secretary, was tapped in April to lead Bush’s vice-presidential selection process, a move that was initially thought to lessen the odds that he would be chosen to fill the slot.
But Cheney and the Bush camp recently took several key steps to clear the way for Cheney to join the governor on the Republican ticket.
Steps to the Ticket
On Thursday, Cheney warned the board of Halliburton Co., a Texas-based engineering and construction firm, that he would need to step down as chief executive officer if tapped to run for vice president. Last month, Cheney sold half of his interest in the company’s stock.
On Friday, Cheney traveled from Texas to Wyoming, where he served as a congressman for 10 years, to personally change his voter registration in order to remove a possible constitutional barrier to a Bush-Cheney ticket.
The Bush camp also took steps to evaluate Cheney’s health, a potential area of concern given that he has suffered three heart attacks and, in 1988, underwent quadruple bypass surgery.
Cheney was given a medical exam last week and Dr. Denton A. Cooley, a prominent Houston cardiologist and a Bush family friend, spoke to Cheney’s physician in Washington, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, and subsequently concluded that Cheney was fit to run and serve.
It was revealed Monday that Bush had selected Cheney to be his running mate. Today at 7:22 a.m. ET, Bush called Cheney in Dallas to formally ask him to join him on the ticket, and Cheney said yes.
Cheney, 59, served as White House chief of staff under President Ford and secretary of defense under President Bush, the Texas governor’s father.
Bush had said that the two most important qualities for a vice-presidential candidate were personal loyalty and an ability to serve as president. A highly respected party elder with vast experience in both the executive and legislative branches, Cheney fits the bill on both counts. He also brings some much-needed defense and foreign policy expertise to the ticket.
ABCNEWS has learned that former President Bush had strongly urged the selection of Cheney, who served as his defense secretary during the Gulf War. The senior Bush was also instrumental in tapping Cheney to lead his son’s search for a running mate.
“Dick Cheney has been a pre-eminent public servant of our time and served his country very well,” said Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, who had been considered a Republican vice presidential contender himself. “I’m sure he’ll do a terrific job.”
Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth, who had joined Cheney on the final short list of prospective candidates, called him a “great choice.”
“He brings enormous credentials to the job,” added Arizona Sen. John McCain, Bush’s opponent during the GOP primaries. “He’s really one of the most experienced members of the Republican Party.”
One potential drawback to Cheney’s candidacy is that he does not hail from a key battleground state. Wyoming, with its three electoral votes, is unlikely to play a significant role in the general election.
With the Republican ticket now decided, Vice President Al Gore is moving ahead with his running mate selection process. Gore was meeting this morning with the head of search team, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
“As for Governor Bush’s pick,” Gore told reporters at the vice president’s residence this morning, “I’m going to wait until he formally announces.”
After Bush does formally name Cheney as his choice for the vice presidential nomination later today, the two candidates will work to build enthusiasm for the full ticket in advance of the Republican National Convention, which is set to begin in Philadelphia next Monday. Their first stop together on the campaign trail will be a rally Wednesday in Wyoming, Cheney’s home state.
ABCNEWS’ Mark Halperin, John Berman, Ann Compton and Carter M. Yang contributed to this report.