I'm going to have to go all downer on Matt and Jon Chait -- Cheney isn't going to find himself being pushed into the Oval Office. Chait thinks it'll happen because the Party doesn't want an ideologically soft successor to Bush and they know Cheney sacrifices virgins in Ronald Reagan's name. Matt thinks it's because the absence of an obvious successor and the proliferation of credible candidates will make Bush a lame duck well, now. But all that's presupposing an enormous lack of cynicism onto the Republican party. As Matt argued to Chait, to term Bush's agenda an ideology is an affront to ideologies everywhere, there's nothing recognizable to push into the future save maybe tax cuts and a willingness to take credit for positive developments abroad. But Matt's wrong as well -- no one's uniting around Cheney. Even if Bush were to publicly anoint him, pouring oil atop his bald VP on the floor of Congress (I hear John Ashcroft recommends Crisco fir impromptu anointing), Bush's lame duckeyness still wouldn't be averted.
First of all, no party intent on self-preservation is going to hand Cheney the baton. Sure Bush and a few party bigfoots might give it a shot, but there's not a less appealing candidate out there, the operatives dedicated to advancing the movement would never, ever buy it. Hunting trips with Scalia? Closed door meetings with Enron? Connections to Plame? Cussing Leahy out on the Senate floor? And a scowling visage that makes him look hungry for human flesh? This is the party of Reagan and Bush Jr., these folks aren't going to abandon their taste for outdoorsy, handsome balls of reg'lar guy charisma to give the physical manifestation of greed a shot at the crown.
More to the point, even if Bush did decide Dick was the way to go, he'd only split the party more. Cheney was picked for a number of reasons, but one of the most overt was to calm the many potential presidents in the party by publicly refusing to pick an heir apparent. No small numbers of leading Republicans felt screwed by Bush's crystal stair ascendance, for him to guarantee a successor would've been too much. So he didn't. But having spent all this time laboring under the impression that their shot was next, the current crop of wannabes will not recede into the shadows to give the politically unappealing, weak-hearted VP a chance. They united behind Bush because the party needed to win after eight years of Clinton, but they're not going to have the same team spirit with Cheney.
If Bush picks sides now, particularly a side no one was expecting and no one wants, his power to keep the candidates in line vanishes. Contenders have already lost his endorsement, he's not going to aid their campaigns, so they might as well position against him and his choice in the hopes that the Bush agenda turns sour and Cheney's "political charms" scare the young 'uns. That Bush and Cheney are pushing a host of highly unpopular initiatives only compounds their problem by making them all the easier and more politically-simple to oppose. So Cheney 08? I think not. McCain, Frist, Giuliani, Graham, Santorum, Hagel, Allen, etc have no interest in letting Bush pull the tube from their presidential chances. If he tries, they'll pull the plug on his agenda.