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White House Dismisses Speculation about Vice President's Candidacy - 2004-07-15

The White House is dismissing speculation that President Bush will drop Vice President Dick Cheney from the Republican ticket before November's election.

It is Washington's most popular rumor: President Bush considering dumping Vice President Cheney and choosing another running mate to energize his re-election campaign.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan says it is just that: a rumor without merit.

"This is a campaign season. There is going to be a lot of inside-the-beltway rumor mongering going on and that is all this is," he said.

Mr. McClellan says Vice President Cheney will still be on the Republican ticket come election day.

"I think the president made his views very clear when, even before he had made a decision, or an announcement at least, that he was going to run for re-election that if he did the vice president would be part of that team," Mr. McClellan said.

Some of the speculation about the vice president's place on that team centers around his health. Mr. Cheney has had four heart attacks and now has a surgically implanted electronic device to control irregular heart rhythms.

In an analysis of the rumors surrounding Mr. Cheney's future, the New York Times reports that some congressional Democrats are speculating that the vice president recently dismissed his personal doctor so he could see a new physician who will conveniently tell him that his heart problems make him unfit to run for another term.

That would free President Bush to choose a new running mate without appearing to be disloyal in asking Mr. Cheney to step down.

But it is not just Democrats who are fueling the Cheney rumors. A former Republican senator from New York called on the president to replace Mr. Cheney with Secretary of State Colin Powell or Arizona Senator John McCain.

That suggestion came, in part, because of the vice president's low approval ratings. A New York Times/CBS News poll last month found that just 21 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Mr. Cheney, compared with 39 percent who have a favorable impression of Mr. Bush.

In an interview with C-SPAN television, Mr. Cheney said he could not envision any circumstances under which he would step aside. If he thought that would be appropriate, the vice president said he certainly would step down, but he is confident President Bush wants him on the ticket.

"The way I got here in the first place was he persuaded me four years ago that I was the man he wanted in that post, not just as a candidate but as somebody to be a part of the governing team. And he's been very clear that he doesn't want to break up the team," he said.

Capping a career that has included time as a congressman, White House chief of staff, and defense secretary, Mr. Cheney has been one of the most influential vice president's in U.S. history.