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Pa. officials say Ridge could help GOP ticket

July 23, 2000|By DON AINES

Pa. officials say Ridge could help GOP ticket



WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Reports out of Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, in recent days indicate former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney could be Republican nominee George Bush's choice for vice president, although Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge would likely deliver the state's 23 electoral votes to the GOP in November, according to state legislators from Franklin County.

"The polls show Bush would carry Pennsylvania by a narrow margin without Ridge," State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, said Sunday. "That margin would increase substantially with Gov. Ridge on the ticket," according to Punt, who said the polls he saw were conducted in the last 10 days.

"Depending on who you talk to, or what you read, Cheney appears to be a front-runner now," Punt said.

"Ridge would be a big plus as far as carrying Pennsylvania," said State Rep. Pat Fleagle. "In my heart, I'm rooting for Ridge," he said.

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Although Pennsylvania lost two congressional seats as a result of the 1990 census, it still has more Electoral College votes than all but four states - California, New York, Texas and Florida. The state went to Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, after having supported the GOP nominees - and eventual winners - in the prior three presidential elections.

Cheney, 59, is a former congressman from Wyoming, a state with just three Electoral College votes that haven't gone to a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson's landslide victory over Barry Goldwater in 1964, according to the Federal Election Commission records.

The Associated Press reported Cheney changed his voter registration from Texas to Wyoming on Friday, removing a constitutional obstacle to his becoming the Texas governor's running mate.

"Regardless of who Gov. Bush picks, I think he has the strength to win the race" against Democratic nominee and Vice President Al Gore, said Fleagle.

"Dick Cheney has a good reputation and doesn't carry a lot of baggage with him. You hear mostly good things when people talk about him," Fleagle said. Cheney is best known for his role as defense secretary under former President George Bush during the Persian Gulf War.

Still, 270 Electoral College votes are need to win the White House and Pennsylvania's 23 votes represents almost 9 percent of that goal.

Ridge, 54, won re-election to a second term in a landslide in 1998, but differs with Bush and many in the GOP who are anti-abortion.

"On that issue we are diametrically opposed, but as far as helping the ticket and having the character to be president, I think Tom Ridge does," Fleagle said.

"People who are single-issue oriented on that issue on either side are not going to change," Punt said. Most voters, however, "would look at Ridge as a whole and conclude he has a very good record," he said.

"Part of me would hate to see Gov. Ridge leave, because he's done such a wonderful job," Punt said. Even if Ridge does not get the nod for vice president, Punt said there might be a role for him as attorney general, or secretary of defense.

Bush is expected to make his vice presidential selection known prior to the Republican National Convention, which begins in Philadelphia on Monday, July 31.

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