THE 2000 CAMPAIGN: THE TEXAS GOVERNOR; New Sign Bush Favors Cheney as No. 2

Published: July 24, 2000

A cardiac surgeon in Houston who described himself as a longtime friend of the Bush family said today that both Gov. George W. Bush and his father, former President George Bush, had asked him on Friday to consult by telephone with one of Richard B. Cheney's physicians and help determine if Mr. Cheney ''was up to a strenuous campaign.''

In a telephone interview today, the surgeon, Denton A. Cooley, said that after the Bushes made that request, he spoke almost immediately with Mr. Cheney's physician. And several hours later, Dr. Cooley said, both the governor and the former president got back in touch with him to check his findings about Mr. Cheney, which were favorable.

Mr. Cheney, the former defense secretary and the man supervising the process by which Governor Bush chooses a running mate, emerged over the last two days as a leading contender for the No. 2 spot on the Republican ticket. And one reason many Republican officials were surprised by that development was Mr. Cheney's health. More than a decade ago, he had three mild heart attacks.

But Mr. Cheney has apparently not had any heart trouble in recent years, and Dr. Cooley said that he told both of the Bushes, who placed separate calls to him, that Mr. Cheney's physician in Washington ''thought he was certainly capable and fit enough to go through a national campaign.'' Dr. Cooley added that the governor and former president both seemed pleased by that news.

Dr. Cooley's actions, first reported today by ABC News, were yet another sign of the seriousness with which Mr. Cheney, whom one high-ranking Republican official described today as the front-runner to share the Republican ticket with Governor Bush, is being considered for the job. On the same day that the Bushes were reaching out to Dr. Cooley, Mr. Cheney changed his voter registration from Texas to Wyoming, a state he represented in Congress for many years, thereby eliminating a potential constitutional hurdle to being the vice-presidential nominee.

And late last week, according to a report by the Associated Press today, Mr. Cheney began telling business associates at Halliburton, the Dallas energy company where he is a top executive, that there was a ''good chance'' he would be the vice presidential nominee. Mr. Cheney reportedly wanted to alert them because he had previously indicated that he was not interested in being the nominee.