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Cheney Slated as Bush Running Mate in 2004 Election - 2003-05-07

Vice President Dick Cheney says he has agreed to be President Bush's running mate in the 2004 elections. Mr. Cheney says past health problems will not prevent him from running for re-election.

Vice President Cheney told a Texas newspaper that he is in good enough health for another run on the Republican ticket.

The 62-year-old has had four heart attacks since 1978. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 1988 and now has a doctor with him 24 hours a day.

President Bush has previously said he would ask Mr. Cheney to run with him again in 2004. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called the vice president's announcement a "formality."

Asked if it signals the official start of the re-election campaign, Mr. Fleischer said only that the president will have something to say "at the appropriate time."

Mr. Cheney told the Dallas Morning News that he would step down if he ran into health problems that interfered with his job. That is similar to the conditions he placed on his work two years ago when doctors implanted a pacemaker-like device to control his irregular heartbeat. "I am, as everybody has known for a long time, living with coronary artery disease for nearly a quarter of a century now," he said. "That's nothing new. My capacity to function in this job, if the doctors ever conclude that I can't, obviously I would be the first to step forward and say so."

If President Bush wins re-election, he would not be able to run again, so there has been some speculation that the president would replace Mr. Cheney with someone who could succeed him in 2008.

The former Wyoming Congressman is widely seen as someone who does not have his own presidential ambitions. Mr. Cheney exercises considerably more influence than most vice presidents.

He was the Defense Secretary for former president George Bush, directing the campaigns to oust Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and drive Iraqi troops from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War.

In the run-up to the most recent fighting in Iraq, Vice President Cheney opposed a diplomatic solution and helped drive the decision to topple Saddam Hussein by invading the country.

Mr. Cheney is one of the administration's leading social conservatives. He also drafted a White House energy policy to increase oil drilling in the Arctic wilderness.

The vice president's ties to the oil industry have raised questions about his impartiality. Before he came to office with President Bush, Mr. Cheney served five years as the chief executive of the Halliburton Company.

That firm won a no-bid contract to put out oil well fires in Iraq. Now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the contract also allows Halliburton to pump and distribute Iraqi oil.

Congressional Democrats want to know if the company won the $50 million contract because of its ties to the vice president. California Congressman Henry Waxman wants the General Accounting Office to investigate.

Mr. Fleischer denies the allegations, saying Mr. Waxman "never met a Republican he didn't want to investigate." Mr. Fleischer says the White House has nothing to do with awarding contracts to rebuild Iraq and did not intervene on Halliburton's behalf.