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© St. Petersburg Times, published November 23, 2000
WASHINGTON -- If a vice presidential candidate must be replaced, the presidential candidate chooses a successor who must be ratified by his party before the Dec. 18 meeting of the Electoral College.
Republican vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney was taken to a Washington hospital Wednesday because of chest pains and was undergoing tests. Cheney, 59, suffered three heart attacks more than a decade ago. Doctors had given him a clean bill of health when he became George W. Bush's running mate.
If it becomes necessary to replace Cheney as Bush's running mate, Bush would choose the successor. The Republican National Committee would gather to ratify his choice. Because he is not president or president-elect, it is the prerogative of the party to approve a replacement.
Because the Electoral College has not yet met, Bush and Cheney are still only candidates. Not until after the electors act on Dec. 18 would either Bush or Al Gore become president-elect which would require adherence to the 25th Amendment in case of death.
If a vice president, or vice president-elect dies after the electors act, the 25th Amendment kicks in. It requires that president or president-elect must nominate a new vice president who must be confirmed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
There is precedent of a running mate dying before the meeting of the presidential electors.
In 1912, Republican William Howard Taft chose James S. Sherman to be his running mate for a second term. But on Oct. 30, just days before the election, Sherman died. Taft named Nicholas Murray Butler, the president of Columbia University as his replacement.
The Republican National Committee, however, did not have time to meet prior to the election. But the members gathered afterward and ratified Butler's selection, even though Taft had lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
Butler became heir to Sherman's electoral votes, although it was a purely symbolic gesture.
There has also been a resignation of a vice presidential candidate.
In 1972, Sargent Shriver was chosen to take the place of Thomas Eagleton on the Democratic ticket with George McGovern after Eagleton's resignation before the election. The party ratified McGovern's choice.
McGovern lost to Richard Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew.