Word out of the White House on Thursday was that an embarrassed McCain ’08 campaign has reached out to Vice President Dick Cheney‘s office about inviting him to the Republican Convention in St. Paul. Source inside Cheney’s office would not confirm whether discussions about a Cheney appearance had taken place. “There won’t be official word,” said one vice presidential aide.
McCain insiders claimed that the Cheney story was blown far out of proportion. “It’s not that we don’t want him, it’s that we aren’t organized around who will be attending, what their role will be or what we’re going to do there,” says one McCain adviser. Which may very well be true.
But other McCain aides say that it was made clear that while an appearance by President Bush was something that had to be handled with care and as a priority, a Cheney appearance was not a priority or an event campaign staff should focus on.
“Perhaps they thought by ignoring it that it would just go away, but you can’t blow off a national party leader, no matter what you may think of him,” says another McCain adviser, who said the team is decidedly split on having both the President and Vice President appear in St. Paul.
The antipathy toward Cheney, some McCain insiders say, is more about the long-standing relationship between the two men, and less about McCain distancing himself from the past seven and a half years. “But it also reflects the ongoing struggle conservatives have had with this candidate,” says a longtime conservative activist in Washington. “When your most prominent surrogates are Mitt Romney and Carly Fiorina, and you basically treat conservatives like second-hand citizens, you should expect to take some heat. Most conservatives like and admire this President and like and admire this Vice President. I think it’s fair to say that level of affection does not exist over in Crystal City [site of McCain headquarters in northern Virginia].”
For his part, Vice President Cheney would probably prefer not to be in St. Paul in early September when that time could be more productively spent fishing with friends and people who appreciate his company and world-view.