PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Texas Gov. George W. Bush asked Dick Cheney to be his running mate in a pre-dawn telephone call Tuesday and the former defense secretary accepted, forging a Republican presidential partnership that bridges two generations of Bush family politics, a highly placed Republican official said.

Thus Bush's search for a running mate ended where it began, with Cheney _ the man who headed the Texan's selection team, a respected member of former President Bush's Cabinet.

Bush, 54, placed the call from the governor's mansion in Austin at 6:22 a.m. and Cheney accepted, the source said, less than a week from Monday's opening of the GOP convention here.

The Bush campaign said the new GOP presidential ticket would make its debut during a formal announcement at a 2 p.m. rally on the campus of the University of Texas.

On Wednesday, Bush and Cheney will make a trip to Cheney's home state of Wyoming, the source said. Spokeswoman Karen Hughes confirmed that Bush called his running mate, but wouldn't identify him.

Once Cheney accepted, Bush began contacting the also-rans. Sens. Bill Frist of Tennessee and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Govs. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, Frank Keating of Oklahoma and George Pataki of New York were among those who received calls from Bush, who thanked them for their participation in the search process.

The official announcement promised to be an anticlimactic ending to a top-secret search involving a score of prominent Republicans who had hoped to land a spot on Bush's ticket, only to be bested by the man who had an inside track from the start.

Word leaked Friday that he was the leading candidate, and sources confirmed Monday that that Bush would make Cheney his running mate.

Cheney, 59, brings the ticket a wealth of foreign policy experience and political stature _ traits that Bush, a two-term Texas governor, lacks himself. He is a bridge between Bush and his father, former President Bush, who put Cheney in his Cabinet and promoted him for his son's ticket.

After promising an ``electrifying'' choice, Bush took the safe route: Cheney is a rock-solid conservative who poses little or no political risk. Bolder choices were available, including abortion-rights Govs. Ridge and Pataki.

Fashioning an impressive resume in two decades of public service, Cheney served as President Ford's chief of staff, six terms in Congress from Wyoming and four years as Pentagon chief, where he successfully executed the Persian Gulf War.

Cheney suffered three heart attacks by age 48, but a doctor commissioned by the Bush campaign issued a statement saying his health ``should not interfere with a strenuous political campaign.''

Bush, 54, plucked the former Pentagon chief from the private sector to head up his selection process. Though rumored to be a candidate himself, Cheney's position atop Bush's short list didn't become public until Friday.

Even before the deal was sealed, Republican officials welcomed the prospect of a Bush-Cheney ticket.

Frist, a contender for the job until the end, called Cheney ``a man with substance (with) serious broad experience in the public as well as private sector.''

Hagel of Nebraska, another contender, said Cheney ``represents the quality, character and experience that America is searching for in national leadership.''

Vice President Al Gore, whose convention begins Aug. 14 in Los Angeles, is considering a number of candidates, including former Senate George Mitchell of Maine, Florida Sen. Bob Graham and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Among the GOP stalwarts in addition to Hagel and Frist who had been under consideration: Keating of Oklahoma, Ridge and Pataki; former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee; Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee; and Rep. John Kasich of Ohio.

Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth lingered on the short list until the end but came up short despite the advantage of hailing from a battleground state.

Cheney changed his voting registration from Texas to Wyoming last week to get around a constitutional problem that arises when both members of a presidential ticket live in the same state.

All signs had pointed to Cheney for days. He told business associates he had a good chance of getting the job and leaving his company, Halliburton Co. of Dallas; and he forwarded an all-clear health report from his doctors to Bush.

Cheney sold nearly half his interest in Halliburton stock _ some 100,000 shares _ last month, raising an estimated $5.1 million. Before the sale, Cheney held options on 229,000 shares.

The health report came at the behest of Bush and his father, both of whom wanted to know whether Cheney's history of heart trouble would pose a problem in the campaign.

Sensitive to suggestions that the elder Bush is a quiet power behind his son's White House bid, campaign spokeswoman Hughes said the call to Cheney's doctor was the only action taken by the former president in the review process.

Cheney served as defense secretary under President Bush, helping the president forge an international coalition in the Persian Gulf War. Before that, he served in Congress and as chief of staff for Ford.

Bush has faced questions about whether he is ready to be president, and advisers believe a running mate who knows his way around the White House _ and around the world _ would fill in the so-called gravitas gap.

In Congress, Cheney appealed to moderates, but racked up a conservative voting record and was a solid Ronald Reagan supporter. He was mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for Bush in 1992.

He is anti-abortion but says the party must accommodate Republicans on both sides of the debate.

Cheney suffered three mild heart attacks more than 10 years ago, including one while campaigning for the Wyoming House seat in the primaries. He has undergone coronary bypass surgery.