Unlike his presumptive running mate, Cheney's not short on political mileage. He's been in D.C. since 1969, serving in the Nixon and Ford administrations, eventually as Ford's de facto chief of staff. In 1978, he was elected a U.S. representative from Wyoming, and served for 10 years before becoming minority whip. Cheney is reportedly especially good at keeping feathers around him unruffled; among his political gifts was the ability to broker peace among congressional Democrats and Republicans.
It hasn't always been smooth sailing. By 1989, Cheney had suffered three mild heart attacks, and has since undergone coronary bypass surgery. However, he has had several years of robust health, and while time-consuming, Cheney's medical setbacks did not affect the path of his political career.
In 1989 George Bush Sr. tapped Cheney to be secretary of defense, and the nomination swept through Congress in less than two weeks. Cheney's tenure at the Defense Department was eventful; he appointed General Colin Powell to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the two men worked together during the Persian Gulf War. Cheney left the Cabinet in January 1993, as the Clinton administration began.
Well-known as a calm and thoughtful presence, Cheney is also widely respected among the Republican faithful for his consistently conservative views on issues ranging from abortion (he's pro-life) to taxes.
Until his name began circulating as George W. Bush's likely choice for vice president, Cheney was working the other side of the fence, leading the younger Bush's search for the ideal running mate.