WASHINGTON - Dick Cheney is on board as President Bush's running mate next year, filling the top slot in a re-election team the White House quietly has been assembling for months.
Cheney's place on the ticket has been assured since at least November, when Bush said publicly he wanted Cheney for another term. Bush told Cheney so privately at the time, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. Cheney agreed.
Cheney told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday: "The president has asked me if I would serve again as his running mate. I've agreed to do that."
White House officials are reluctant to discuss Bush's re-election, insisting the president is focused on policy, not politics.
But Bush's aides are well along in putting together the team, and the president is involved in his re-election. His travels, for instance, closely track a list of battleground states compiled by chief political adviser Karl Rove.
Bush headlined 68 fundraisers last year, an average of about one every five days, taking in more than $142-million for Republican candidates. He returns to the money trail this month with a dinner for Senate and House election campaigns.
President Bush plans to announce his re-election campaign as soon as Memorial Day after a postponement for several months because of the confrontation with Iraq, Republican sources said Wednesday, according to the Washington Post.
The sources said that at that time, Bush is likely to name Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee, as his campaign chairman, the Post reported. Mercer Reynolds, who left his post as Bush's ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein at the end of March, is to be the finance chairman.
Behind the scenes, Bush aides have reached out to scores of Republicans, many of them current administration employees, to gauge their interest in joining the campaign or working on the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.
Campaign officials have asked some of them how they would feel about working in Austin, Texas, where the 2000 Bush campaign headquarters was located.
But several Republicans said the campaign headquarters will be in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, according to the Associated Press. Ken Mehlman, currently the White House political director, will manage that office.
Karen Hughes, Bush's former communications director at the White House, will oversee big-picture communications from her home in Austin.
The public face of the campaign - the spokesperson role - remains unfilled after months of discussions.Poll: Economy will heal, but tax cuts aren't cure-all
More Americans are optimistic that the economy will improve now that the war with Iraq is over, says a new poll. But they are not convinced President Bush's tax cut plan will help.
The number of people who think the economy will get better has increased from 30 percent in January to 43 percent now, while 19 percent think it will get worse, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The rest thought it would remain about the same.
The public now feels better about its economic prospects, and two-thirds feel the war helped in the campaign against terrorism. The poll of 1,201 adults was taken April 30-May 4 and had an error margin of 3 percentage points.
People were evenly divided on Bush's proposal to cut taxes, and they thought it would mainly benefit the wealthy and increase the deficit. Seven in 10 said the tax cuts would benefit some people much more than others.
The president's job approval was 65 percent, down slightly from a month ago when it was in the mid 70s.