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Cheney wields partisan clout for Romney campaign

Dick Cheney predicted in 2010 that Barack Obama would be a "one-term president," and on Thursday night the former vice president will do his part to make that forecast a reality as he appears at a series of fundraisers for Mitt Romney in Wyoming.

Jim Mann, who wrote a 2004 study of Cheney and his Bush administration associates called “Rise of the Vulcans,” said, “I think he sees himself as an elder statesman and while he certainly can’t physically run for office again, he’ll probably be active in Republican politics for the rest of his life.” (Cheney underwent a heart transplant earlier this year.)

Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Former vice president Dick Cheney will appear at a series of fundraisers for Mitt Romney in Wyoming.

In one sense Cheney is simply continuing a role he began in the opening days of Obama’s presidency with his outspoken criticism of him.

Cheney’s aggressive partisan role has put him at odds with former President George W. Bush, who has remained out of the public eye, except for a convivial White House ceremony for the unveiling  of official portraits of him and his wife Laura.

Only two weeks after Obama took the oath at the Capitol – with Cheney sitting nearby in a wheelchair after a pulling a muscle in his back – Cheney told POLITICO that he feared Obama's policies would make a catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States more likely. He said that Obama would either renege on his promise to close the Guantanamo terrorist detention center or put the country at risk. And despite signing an executive order on his first day in office ordering the facility to be closed, Obama has kept it open.

Cheney also said in early 2009 that by ending the Bush administration’s terrorist interrogation practices, Obama had increased “the risk to the American people of another attack."

A few weeks after that, Cheney said Obama appeared to be “a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests.”

Cheney’s role in the Romney campaign is a striking contrast to the 2008 race, when GOP nominee John McCain sharply criticized the veep for his part in the Iraq War.

Cheney’s daughter Liz worked for Romney when he ran for the GOP nomination in 2008, serving as one of his foreign policy advisors.

Dick Cheney’s role in presidential campaigns is one of the most enduring in American politics.

It was Cheney, as President Gerald Ford’s chief of staff in 1976, who persuaded him to jettison Vice President Nelson Rockefeller from the ticket. He even formed a presidential exploratory committee in 1994 as he mulled over the idea of running in 1996.

By 2000, there were some people, including even Bush, who thought Cheney was “done with politics” when he led the search to find a running mate for the Republican nominee. Cheney himself ended up as Bush’s number two. He wasn’t done with politics then, and he still isn’t.

Of course, Cheney has been the man Democrats love to hate ever since his famous energy task force in 2001, and the run-up to the Iraq War in 2002. But he’s still a draw for some GOP donors.

What’s different this year is the vocal minority within conservative ranks that’s willing to criticize and even heckle Cheney – as they did when he showed up at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

Ron Paul and his followers contend that Cheney-Bush foreign policy led the nation to the brink of fiscal ruin. Of course, Romney does not see things that way. During the GOP debates he carried the torch of the Cheney-Bush tradition of an interventionist foreign policy and robust military strength.

Given Cheney’s history as a veep-picker, perhaps those donors paying upwards of $30,000 a plate for a seat at the fundraising dinner are hoping for an opportunity to hear what advice he’d offer to Romney in private on choosing a running mate. Cheney biographer Barton Gellman said that Bush joked in 2008 that his advice to that year’s GOP nominee, McCain, on picking a running mate would be to “be careful about who he names to the head of the selection committee.”