AUSTIN, Texas -- George W. Bush says he's getting close but hasn't decided yet who will be his running mate, but he has decided on a top priority for that choice. "You want somebody who's not going to hurt you," Bush said.
Twelve days before the opening of the national convention that will formally make him the Republican presidential candidate, Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference on Wednesday: "I will make up my mind soon."
A number of Republicans are urging the Texan to sit on his lead in polls and make a "safe" pick, giving greater weight to a candidate's potential to do harm than his or her prospects for bolstering the ticket.
Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating and even Dick Cheney -- head of Bush's search -- have emerged as favorites of the take-no-chances crowd, though Bush himself has not said whether either is a candidate.
Others mentioned as potential running mates include Govs. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania and George Pataki of New York; Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, and Fred Thompson and Bill Frist, both of Tennessee; and Rep. John Kasich of Ohio.
The two-term Texas governor has winnowed his list and has shared his thoughts with a small number of advisers, all sworn to secrecy. He could announce his decision as early as Monday, though he has not ruled out waiting until the July 31-Aug. 3 Republican convention in Philadelphia.
In an interview aboard his campaign plane Tuesday night, Bush openly ruled out two potential candidates -- retired Gen. Colin Powell and Senator Connie Mack of Florida -- but stopped and smiled when Cheney's name was mentioned.
"I'm not going there," Bush said.
Republican operative Rich Galen said of Cheney, "He'd be a smart pick, an elder with gravitas," adding that the former defense secretary's history of heart problems might be a factor.
On the Democratic side, the most mentioned running mate prospects for Al Gore are House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, Florida Sen. Bob Graham, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and former Maine Sen. George Mitchell.
Warren Christopher, head of Gore's selection effort, has been asking Democratic lawmakers about the idea of picking Mitchell, party sources say.
Bush, in a discussion about the history of vice presidential selections abroad his plane, said a running mate rarely helps a ticket because voters size up the presidential candidate, not his No. 2. On the other hand, a bad or controversial choice can hurt the ticket, he said.
"You want somebody who can do the job, wants the job and is willing to work for you. You want somebody who's not going to hurt you," Bush said. Asked if history suggested that a "safe" pick is the best route, Bush said yes.
However, the Texas governor was careful not to apply that history lesson to his selection process. It wasn't clear if he was tipping his hand or merely ruminating over political theories during an informal chat.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.