A running mate for 2010

A RUNNING MATE FOR 2010…. With Dick Cheney positioning himself as one of the de facto leaders of the nation in the post-Bush/Cheney era, it’s not unreasonable to ask Republican incumbents a straightforward question: do you want to campaign alongside the former vice president?

A few GOP leaders are willing to put on a brave face, but those who may face competitive races next year are a little cagey on the subject.

Asked whether he’d like Cheney to campaign with him, Utah Sen. Robert Bennett — who faces a primary challenge in 2010 — said: “The most powerful national politician in Utah is Mitt Romney, and he’s already come to Utah to campaign for me. And I think I’ll leave it at that.”

Asked if he’d want Cheney on the campaign trail for him, North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said: “I’m not going to go there yet.” Pressed on the matter, Burr — a top target for Democrats — said Cheney is “trying to set the record straight on his administration.” But Burr said he didn’t want to discuss “what’s going to happen in my campaign. I don’t even have an opponent.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told reporters yesterday that he’d be “proud to appear with the vice president anywhere, anytime.” When pressed on whether they share that view, Florida’s Charlie Crist, Ohio’s Rob Portman, and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski said they didn’t want to talk about it. Arizona John McCain, who’s also seeking another term next year, responded, “I don’t have the time or energy to discuss that — or the inclination.”

There were a few Republicans — including Georgia’s Johnny Isakson and Oklahoma’s Tom Coburn — who said they’d gladly accept help from the former vice president, but they represent some very “red” states.

Expect to hear more of this. I suspect the DSCC will have some fun with it.