Dick Cheney may not be called on to play any role at all in the 2008 presidential bid of presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, sources say, because the vice president’s levels of unpopularity are too high and the ill-will McCain and Cheney have had in the past is too great.
“I don’t think the McCain people want Cheney anywhere near him,” says a former Cheney aide.
Cheney spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, says the vice president hasn’t yet campaigned for McCain and, to her knowledge, hasn’t been asked.
One reason McBride gives as to why McCain might not want Cheney campaigning for him this political season is the rocky relationship the two have had in recent years, especially over former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
McCain in the past has said Rumsfeld, a close friend and mentor of Cheney, will "go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history."
Cheney, in an interview with ABC News, responded to McCain’s pronouncement by saying, “I just fundamentally disagree with John. [He] said some nasty things about me, and the next time he saw me, he ran over to apologize. Maybe he’ll apologize to Rumsfeld.”
The two also have disagreed in recent months on the idea of a summer gas tax holiday and a Cheney-backed energy bill.
Still, Cheney sympathizers believe the vice president can be helpful to McCain’s chances of winning the White House in November. Cheney, they say, could help McCain shore up what is proving to be his weakest GOP constituency – hardcore Bush administration supporters.
“Instead of pushing the vice president away, I’d use him to build bridges with various conservative constituencies,” says Cesar Conda, a lobbyist who worked for Cheney during the vice president’s first term.
“That’s where the party really needs him, because the conservative base is in the doldrums.”
"John McCain will always treat the vice president with respect," says McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker. But with Cheney’s favorability ratings near toxic lows, McCain “has no plans for the two to campaign together.”
Still, Cheney spokeswoman McBride emphasizes that the vice president does, indeed, support McCain.
“The vice president has always said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to help Republicans,” she says.
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