It's not going to happen. But the media and the Democrats want it to happen, so it will be a topic of intense political conversation -- President Bush dumping Dick Cheney from his ticket.
It's not going to happen, because Bush is loyal to a fault, and Cheney is, in any case, popular and valued within the administration. As a White House aide says: "He's smart and tough and trusted and discreet. At Madison Square Garden during one of FDR's conventions they unfurled a banner that read, 'We love you for the enemies you've made.' That's the way we feel about Dick Cheney."
The frenzy over kicking Cheney overboard has been ignited by a stray comment advocating it by former New York Sen. Al D'Amato -- who The New York Times accurately describes as "once influential" -- and a Newsweek poll showing the Bush ticket would be marginally more popular with someone besides Cheney in the No. 2 slot. According to Newsweek, John Kerry and John Edwards are beating Bush and Cheney 47 percent to 44 percent. But if Bush added John McCain on the ticket, he would be winning 49 percent to 47 percent. Both results are within the margin of error -- so, in other words, the race would be basically tied either way.
If Bush dumped Cheney, any bounce he would get in the polls would dissipate quickly since people would soon focus again on what they like and dislike about Bush himself. Bush would risk alienating his base, which loves Cheney, and prompting an intraparty bloodbath if he picked the alternatives bandied about most often, McCain or Colin Powell, both of whom have more cachet with journalists than Republicans.
It is arguable exactly how unpopular Cheney is in the first place. The Newsweek poll has his favorable/unfavorable rating in slightly positive territory, 46 percent to 43 percent. Not stellar, but not disastrous. It is possible to find polls that have roughly similar numbers for Kerry. The Republican polling firm the Winston Group recently had Kerry's favorable/unfavorable rating at 43 percent to 45 percent. Dump Kerry? Even in the Newsweek poll people by a 2-1 margin think Cheney "has strong leadership qualities," 63 percent to 30 percent.
If the Bush campaign considers Cheney a liability, it is not acting that way. It is sending him to swing states that Bush lost in 2000. On the weekend of July 4, he traveled to Pennsylvania. This weekend he is scheduled to be in Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota. The campaign believes that Cheney can talk compellingly about the two most important issues in the campaign for both Bush's base and swing voters: the war on terror and the economy.