WASHINGTON - Facing a self-imposed deadline, George W. Bush must decide between former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and a secret list of other potential running mates. Each prospect, including the front-running Cheney, would bring pros and cons to the Republican presidential ticket.
Cheney, a Wyoming lawmaker and White House chief of staff, emerged as the leading candidate Friday after changing his registration from Texas to Wyoming to avoid a Constitutional hurdle if Bush were to pick him.
The Texas governor, who will claim the GOP nomination Aug. 3 in Philadelphia, says he will select a candidate this weekend and announce his decision later in the week.
Highly placed Republican officials said Saturday that Bush had not made a final decision, although he appeared to be leaning toward Cheney. They caution that Cheney is not the only candidate. The officials either did not know - or would not say - who else is under consideration.
Cheney's emergence quieted speculation that former Bush rival John McCain wanted a spot on the ticket. The timing left Republicans wondering whether Bush was using Cheney to divert attention from his vanquished rival.
Cheney would give the ticket stature and Washington experience that Bush lacks, but a number of Bush allies say there would be downsides.
Cheney has a history of heart trouble, and as a former member of President Bush's Cabinet, might undermine the younger Bush's efforts to stand apart from his father and be viewed as a fresh-faced Washington outsider.
''The fact that Cheney is in play this late in the process shows that Bush is looking for somebody with national stature,'' said Republican consultant Scott Reed. ''The question he is wrestling with is: 'Do I go national, or do I look for a regional or state candidate?'''
Among prominent Republicans mentioned as the possible candidate: Cheney, 59:
Leads the search for Bush's running mate. Defense secretary under the Texas governor's father, President Bush, he oversaw U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf War and was President Ford's chief of staff. Represented Wyoming in the U.S. House for six terms. Now chief executive officer of Halliburton Co., a Dallas-based engineering and construction complex. Close confidant of both George W. Bush and his father. While in Congress, considered one of the most conservative members. Voted with the Reagan administration on everything from the ''Star Wars'' missile defense system to anti-abortion rights. In first congressional run in 1978, suffered the first of three heart attacks. Had quadruple bypass operation in 1988.
John Danforth, 63:
Former senator from Missouri and Missouri attorney general. Appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno in September to oversee investigation of the federal government's actions during the siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, and issued his report Friday that cleared Reno and all government agents of wrongdoing. In the Senate, a chief advocate of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings. Retired from the Senate in 1993 and returned home to practice law in St. Louis. Graduate of Princeton University and Yale's law and divinity schools. Heir to the Ralston-Purina fortune. Ordained Episcopal priest. Reportedly told Bush he is not interested in being vice president. Hails from a key state and would help Bush nail down conservative base.
Elizabeth Dole, 63:
Resigned as president of the American Red Cross last year to seek the GOP presidential nomination. Quit the race in October, citing Bush fund-raising prowess. Transportation secretary under President Reagan; labor secretary under President Bush. Master's degree in education and government and a law degree, all from Harvard. Deputy assistant to President Nixon for consumer affairs. Member of the Federal Trade Commission. Married to Bob Dole, former Kansas senator who was the 1996 GOP presidential nominee. Could help Bush with key suburban women vote, although Bush advisers say she is a long shot at best.
Bill Frist, 48:
First-term senator from Tennessee. Heart and lung transplant surgeon who saved the life of a tourist who had a heart attack in a hallway near Frist's Senate office. Graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Medical School. Only senator who is a medical doctor. Father, also a doctor, started one of the nation's largest health-care companies, Columbia HCA. Considered conservative, but prefers to work in the low-key, bipartisan style of the late Sen. Paul Coverdell of Georgia, who died last week and whom Frist called his mentor. Republican point man in Senate on health issues. Opposes abortion rights and the proposed patients' bill of rights; supports partial privatization of Social Security. A dark horse who could help Bush carry the home state of Democrat rival Al Gore.
Chuck Hagel, 53:
First-term senator from Nebraska. Vietnam veteran, wounded twice and awarded two Purple Hearts. Newcomer to the national political stage. During the Republican primaries, served as campaign co-chairman of Arizona Sen. John McCain's bid for the nomination. Quickly came out for Bush when McCain dropped out in March. Son of a lumber worker. Made a fortune as an investment banker, primarily in the cellular telephone industry. A conservative, who believes abortions should be allowed only in cases where the mother's life is at risk. Serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Considered an expert in foreign policy. Would help unify Bush and McCain wings of party.
John Kasich, 48:
Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Member of Congress for 18 years. Ran last year for the 2000 presidential nomination, but his campaign never took off. Dropped out and quickly endorsed Bush. Perhaps best known for his passionate fight against the federal budget deficit and the national debt. Key player in the budget negotiations between Congress and the White House that led to government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. Opposes abortion, supports death penalty. His home state, Ohio, is critical to Bush's election plans.
Frank Keating, 56:
Oklahoma governor, former FBI agent and federal prosecutor. Worked in the Reagan and Bush administrations as assistant secretary of the Treasury and associate attorney general. Returned to Oklahoma in 1994 and was elected governor. Propelled to the national stage after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and his calm, steady leadership was credited with helping the state recover from the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. One of Bush's earliest and most ardent supporters. A Roman Catholic, opposes abortion rights. Center of speculation for weeks, although allies fretted his candidacy was slipping away even before Cheney emerged as a serious prospect.
John McCain, 64:
Third-term senator from Arizona. Bush's toughest rival in GOP presidential primaries. Son, grandson of Naval admirals, McCain spent 5 years in a Vietnamese prison camp after being shot down as a Navy pilot. In Senate and as a presidential candidate, focused on changing the campaign-finance system. Support of campaign-finance change has made him unpopular with some Republican leaders, as has his sometimes quick temper and sharp tongue. Since quitting the race, has started his own political action committee, Straight Talk America, to continue his fight for reform. Also has campaigned for GOP congressional candidates across the country since. In May, McCain formally endorsed Bush. A prime-time speaker at the party's convention. Has hinted that he would vice presidential nomination. Bush aides would be shocked if he offered it, although operatives in both parties say his cross-party appeal would make for a formidable ticket.
George Pataki, 55:
Elected governor of New York in 1994, upsetting Democratic incumbent Mario Cuomo. Former mayor of Peekskill, N.Y., and a state legislator. Graduate of Yale University and Columbia University's law school. A farmer's son from upstate New York. A Catholic, who supports abortion rights. Unlike Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Pataki has had good relations with church hierarchy in his state despite his stance on abortion. Considered a moderate conservative, has a strong environmental record. Proven fund-raiser, spent more than $20 million on his 1998 re-election race and about $14.5 million beating Cuomo. Has been criticized for New York's debt, which has grown during his tenure. Would help Bush with moderates, particularly in the Northeast, but conservatives would have a problem with his position on abortion.
Tom Ridge, 54:
Pennsylvania governor, former six-term congressman. Vietnam veteran, winner of a Bronze Star for valor. One of George W. Bush's strongest supporters during the campaign. A Catholic, supports abortion rights, has feuded with state's Catholic hierarchy over his abortion position. As governor, has expedited Pennsylvania's capital punishment mechanism enough to trigger three executions since he took office. Push for school vouchers defeated by lawmakers. In Congress, represented district with a strong Democratic presence. Veered from party line on abortion, certain defense issues. Voted to provide abortion services to military personnel and dependents overseas and to allow federal funding of abortion in cases of rape or incest. Opposed barring the District of Columbia from using government money to pay for abortions. Would be a risky but bold choice who could help Bush court moderates and nail down Pennsylvania, a key state.
Fred Thompson, 57:
Second-term senator from Tennessee. Formerly a character actor in the movies, has appeared in films including ''In The Line of Fire'' with Clint Eastwood and ''Days of Thunder'' with Tom Cruise. Aide to former Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee in the early 1970s. Picked by Baker as chief minority counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee. Returned to Tennessee after Watergate and practiced law until running for the Senate in 1994. Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, advocate of campaign finance reform. Led the Senate investigation into alleged 1996 fund-raising improprieties by President Clinton. Key supporter of Sen. John McCain's failed bid for the GOP presidential nomination. Threw support to Bush after McCain left the race.