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Bush: Cheney Would Be My Running Mate in '04

President Bush said Thursday that Vice President Dick Cheney will be his running mate if he seeks a second term.

"He's done an excellent job. I appreciate his advice, I appreciate his counsel, I appreciate his friendship. He is a superb vice president," Bush said during a wide-ranging news conference. "There's no reason for me to change."

Cheney's position on the 2004 ticket had been the subject of heightened speculation because of a heart condition and, more recently, because of the attention he draws in connection to corporate accounting scandals.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating accounting practices at Halliburton Co. while Cheney was its chief executive officer.

Cheney has had four heart attacks, none as vice president, and had a high-tech pacemaker implanted in 2001 to monitor his heart and -- if necessary -- to adjust its rhythm.

Bush gave his firm endorsement of Cheney in response to a question on whether he might rather replace him with someone younger who could seek the White House for the GOP after Bush leaves. If Cheney were to run after a second term for Bush, he would be turning 68 around the time he took office in 2009.

But asked if Cheney would want to join a second presidential run in 2004, Bush didn't pause.

"I'm confident that he will serve another term," Bush said.

In August, Cheney suggested his health could play a role in whether he would agree to join any Bush re-election ticket, but said he would serve if asked.

"If the president is willing and if my wife approves, and if the doctors say it's OK, then I'd be happy to serve a second term," Cheney told the Commonwealth Club of California. "But I emphasize again, that's the president's call, not mine."

He said, though, that his health is good.

"I've got, you know, the doctor following me around every place I go -- literally. When I get on the elevator, there's a guy there with a black bag," he said with a chuckle.

Bush also paid tribute to Cheney's contribution to the Republican sweep in Tuesday's elections, noting the many hours, mostly unnoticed, the vice president spent on the campaign trail.

Of the $180 million that Bush and Cheney raised for GOP candidates over the last year, Cheney collected over $40 million in more than 70 events around the nation.

"I also want to thank him for all his hard work during the campaign," Bush said. "He was out there toiling along, working hard and turning out the vote."