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Cheney Emerges as Asset for House GOP

Vice President Cheney has quietly emerged as a key early fundraising draw for Congressional Republicans, even as he and President Bush press hard to fill the coffers of their re-election bid.

Since early summer, the vice president has salted his schedule with events for top-tier GOP incumbents around the country, sometimes making as many as four events a week and raising millions of dollars for campaigns.

Cheney is scheduled to appear today at a fundraiser in Iowa for Rep. Jim Leach (R), and will do an event with Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) toward the end of the month, according to an aide to the vice president.

“He’s got a limited amount of time. So we look for how he can be most effective,” Cheney spokeswoman Cathy Martin said, adding that the vice president tries to fit in Congressional races each month.

Cheney’s efforts have in fact been coordinated through the White House political affairs shop, which has ensured that the vice president’s Congressional itinerary carries the rough outline of Bush’s re-election map.

The event for Gingrey, for instance, is being appended to a previously arranged Cheney event to the south, in Florida.

Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), whose state has become a battleground in contests for the White House, suggested the vice president’s mid-September fundraiser for her in West Virginia added ballast to both campaigns.

“It sends the message that the administration cares about my service and my state,” Capito said of the visit from Cheney. “It’s not just about raising $150,000, it’s about getting ‘face time’ with West Virginia. And that’s important.”

Before Bush and Cheney targeted the state, Capito added, “I can’t even recall [any of] the former presidents coming to West Virginia.”

To date, Cheney has headlined nine fundraisers for House incumbents, including Reps. Max Burns (Ga.), Capito, Chris Chocola (Ind.), Terry Everett (Ala.), Mike Ferguson (N.J.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Robin Hayes (N.C.), Mike Rogers (Ala.) and Heather Wilson (N.M.).

Cheney has also helped raise money at events for Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as Rep. Richard Burr (N.C.), a key GOP Senate candidate.

In the past couple of weeks, Cheney has also been featured in separate events for the party’s two Congressional committees, helping to raise $6.5 million at a dinner for the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and another $1.1 million through his participation in a two-day “tax summit” hosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Cheney’s activity on the Congressional hustings stands in contrast with that of Bush, who has yet to headline any similar events, with the exception of the annual House-Senate fundraising dinner in the spring.

GOP Congressional strategists say the White House and the Bush-Cheney committee had indicated that a heavy emphasis would be placed on collecting the money needed for the re-election battle early, so the president and vice president will be able to concentrate on campaigning as the vote draws close.

The intense fundraising of Bush and Cheney this year helped their campaign raise nearly $50 million in the third quarter alone.

But the White House has also indicated that it believes the success of Congressional Republicans is integral to the president’s own success, and has taken pains to limit the political distance between the two camps.

Rogers’ chief of staff, Rob Jesmer, cited assurances made by senior administration officials earlier this year, when they pulled aside a group of freshman lawmakers during the House GOP retreat at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia.

“They said we should ask whenever we need something. And they’ve been absolutely great,” Jesmer said.

“It certainly builds team spirit,” Ferguson said. “When someone is willing to make that sacrifice in order to help you succeed, it strengthens the relationship.”

Cheney’s luncheon fundraiser for Ferguson this past July collected $235,000 for the incumbent, who estimates that he will spend roughly $2 million on his re-election bid this cycle.

Ferguson said a district event featuring Bush political adviser Karl Rove, another top draw on the road, brought in an additional $125,000 last week.

Although the Cheney luncheon took place in Washington, Ferguson said the vice president’s participation attracted contributors from his Congressional district as well.

“People are energized and excited when they hear you’re doing an event with the vice president of the United States,” Ferguson said. “It’s tremendous.”

Capito said Cheney’s visit had a similar effect in her district, where her campaign found “many people who were wanting to get a chance to meet him.” Capito estimates the money raised at the Cheney event could amount to as much as 25 percent of the total she needs to fight for re-election.

As for future help from the White House, Capito said, “The request is always in.”

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