Given the cold shoulder?

Is it possible that Vice President Dick Cheney, whose approval ratings sank into single digits this spring, might not speak at the Republican convention?

For now, the McCain campaign isn’t saying.

The controversy surfaced this week when the American Spectator, citing sources in Cheney’s office, reported he would not attend the Minneapolis-St. Paul gala and was not being encouraged to do so. His press secretary fueled speculation Tuesday by saying Cheney’s schedule wasn’t set for the first week in September.

With Democrats eager to brand McCain as the third term of President Bush, McCain has carefully distanced himself from the White House -- and giving the cold shoulder to one of the Bush administration’s most controversial figures might fit that broader political strategy.


Reports that Cheney, who remains popular among conservatives, might skip the convention coincided with a new McCain ad telling voters, “We’re not better off than we were four years ago.”

McCain’s aides were decidedly cagey about whether Cheney would have a convention role. Top strategist Mark Salter told reporters aboard McCain’s plane that he had no comment. Advisor Charlie Black said speaking invitations hadn’t been issued. And spokesman Brian Rogers declined to say whether the American Spectator report was true or false.

“We have not announced the program,” Rogers said.

President Bush will speak the first night of the convention, but Rogers said the only other speaker he could confirm was John McCain.


-- Maeve Reston and Janet Hook