ALBANY, N.Y. – President Bush (search) should drop Vice President Dick Cheney (search) from the Republican ticket this year in favor of either Secretary of State Colin Powell or Sen. John McCain of Arizona, an influential former GOP senator said Wednesday.
The advice from New York's Alfonse D'Amato (search) got a chilly reception from the president's campaign.
"I think the fact our campaign is called 'Bush-Cheney '04' says it all," said campaign spokesman Kevin Madden.
"Dick Cheney has one of the most substantive vice presidencies in our great nation's history," Madden said. "As President Bush said today very succinctly, 'Dick Cheney can be president."'
Bush has long maintained he wants Cheney to be his running mate.
A D'Amato aide said the former senator hadn't spoken to Bush or Cheney about the issue.
"Let me note that Vice President Cheney is a decent, honorable, and patriotic American, a man of great intellect, who has served the president and the nation with dedication," D'Amato said in a statement released by his office. "But we should make no mistake, we are a nation at war with a vicious terrorist foe, and in war hard decisions must be made."
"As an observer of politics, I believe the president can guarantee his essential re-election by looking to several other notable individuals who would add a great dimension to his ticket as a running mate," the New York Republican added.
Placing Powell "first and foremost" on his wish list to replace Cheney, D'Amato said the retired general "would help galvanize the nation and offer a truly historic opportunity for American unity and pride."
McCain, said D'Amato, is "a genuine American hero who would also help bridge the political divide in our nation and assure the president's re-election by a wide margin."
"While I believe George Bush will win re-election even without this bold stroke, he will insure a broader, deeper, more resonant reaffirmation of his leadership if he places his duty to continue as president above any one individual," D'Amato said.
"The president deserves more than simple re-election," the former senator added. "He deserves a mandate to continue to lead this nation to peace and prosperity."
D'Amato, who is now a highly successful lobbyist and consultant, first raised the possibility of Bush dropping Cheney from the GOP ticket in an interview Tuesday night with the NY 1 cable news channel in New York City. D'Amato is a regular commentator for NY 1.
In his NY 1 appearance, D'Amato said that while he realized his comments would "shock Republicans and probably get them angry," he said, "I think we can do better."
The former senator said he believed Powell would run with Bush if the position was offered to him.
That, said D'Amato, "would change politics in America for the better."
"Instead of millions of African-Americans having their votes taken for granted or just saying, 'Republicans don't care about us, they don't reach out to us,' this would send an incredible signal," D'Amato said. "It would turn many of the battle (ground) states into tremendous wins for Republicans."
D'Amato said McCain, who had been unsuccessfully courted by Kerry as a running mate, would help the GOP win votes from independents and conservative "Reagan Democrats."
Appearing on Fox News Radio's Tony Snow Show on Wednesday, McCain said he had no interest in the job, felt Cheney was good at it and doubted the vice president would be bounced from the ticket.
"I think he enjoys a relationship with the president that is almost unique, and I think they are literally a team," McCain said.
"Vice President Cheney has an experienced record of leadership on all the important issues facing our country, and President Bush is proud to have a running mate with the expertise and commitment it takes to help keep our economy growing while also making our nation safer and stronger," Bush campaign spokesman Madden said.
D'Amato, who lost his Senate seat in 1998 to Democrat Charles Schumer, is a political mentor to New York Gov. George Pataki, who is considered a potential 2008 GOP presidential candidate.