JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Former Vice President Dick Cheney is using his popularity with Republican conservatives to give a boost to Mitt Romney, hosting a fundraiser for the party's likely nominee at a mountain valley resort as well as a private dinner at his Wyoming home.
Romney has avoided appearing in public with Cheney or with former President George W. Bush — both are seen as divisive figures by many of the swing voters he needs to win over if he's going to defeat President Barack Obama. The Cheney-sponsored events Thursday evening at this resort town near Yellowstone National Park represent a welcome endorsement for Romney, who is eager to win over more of the party's base.
Romney doesn't have a close relationship with the former vice president, a veteran of five Republican presidential administrations and a huge draw for GOP donors. While Romney speaks regularly with former President George H.W. Bush, he seldom refers by name to the most recent Bush to occupy the White House. On occasion he goes out of his way not to say Bush's name out loud and simply calls him "the predecessor" to Obama.
Cheney has generally shied away from politicking and he remains controversial, in part because of his hawkish foreign policy stances, including his support for interrogation techniques like waterboarding.
Still, Romney has embraced Cheney in the past. Last year, he told an Arizona town hall that Cheney's "wisdom and judgment" would provide a model for choosing his own vice president.
Many of Romney's policy advisers were officials in the Bush White House. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently endorsed the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney's visit with the GOP sage comes as he's in the final stages of picking his own No. 2. Cheney is familiar with the process: He was charged with leading Bush's vice presidential search in 2000 and ended up vice president himself. Romney has tasked longtime aide Beth Myers with leading his own vice presidential search.
Cheney has long struggled with cardiovascular disease, suffering a heart attack in 2010, his fifth since the age of 37. Now 71, he received a heart transplant in March at a more advanced age than most patients.
Cheney's daughter Liz also plans to attend Thursday's fundraiser. She recently bought a house in Wyoming, sparking questions about whether she plans to run for office. Her father was elected to six terms as a House member from the state.