Cheney Has His Work Cut Out For Him

Day three of the Republican convention, and now the stakes begin to get a little bit higher. No, don't expect big surprises, not here. But since the four-day production is nothing but an infomercial for the George Bush-Dick Cheney ticket, the time is fast approaching when it will have to do its most important pieces of selling.

On Wednesday night, Bush Veep pick Dick Cheney was in the spotlight alone for the first time. It was his opportunity to introduce himself to the voting public, sure, but it was also his chance to break the ice, so to speak, between him and his own party. The speech was a success, but Cheney still has his work cut out for him.

Some people within the campaign were reportedly caught unawares by the reaction to Cheney's hard-line conservative congressional voting record - votes against a resolution to free Nelson Mandela from prison, against Head Start, against the Equal Rights Amendment and against all forms of gun control.

Despite some poll numbers indicating that his favorable ratings among voters are on the upswing, there's a measure of concern that this consideration may not have been given ample weight in the vetting process. When one considers the tone of the convention thus far, it's easy to see that "rock-solid conservative" is not the image the Bush camp intends to project to the American electorate.

What's more, word is there's grumbling within Team Bush over Cheney's performance thus far. The campaign would probably prefer that the former Defense Secretary keep a somewhat low profile, given the hard questions put to him last weekend on the political talk-show circuit. But the concern now is that Cheney's demeanor is too low-key, his words on arrival in Philadelphia on Monday too brief - and couched in generalities - and his appearance too dour.

On Monday night, the delegates heard a strong speech from retired General Colin Powell, widely considered within the party and electorate as a whole as a dream-team veep pick. Tuesday night, Arizona Senator and former presidential candidate John McCain turned in a solid, but not especially inspired, address to the convention. Elizabeth Dole has also spoken thus far, among a parade of Republican luminaries.

Perhaps Cheney's biggest challenge on the campaign road ahead will be to ensure that his party, the Republican campaign and America's voters do not begin to pine for these other possibilities.