Cabinet changes expected if Bush is re-elected

Donald Rumsfeld is likely to stay as Defense secretary in a second Bush term if he wants to. Attorney General John Ashcroft would probably go, and RNC Chairman (and former Montana Gov.) Marc Racicot is a leading candidate to succeed him. Treasury Secretary John Snow absolutely would stay. Colin Powell is departing State -- no news here -- but there is no single leading replacement candidate yet, should President Bush get the chance to name one. Longtime Bush friend Donald Evans, head of the Commerce Department and viewed by the president as a top spokesman for his economic programs, seems ready to leave Washington; his wife has already moved back to Texas.

Those are the headlines wheedled out of well-informed White House, congressional, administration, and private-sector sources gathered for Bush's convention week in New York.

"I don't know what the turnover will be in the second term," Evans told reporters Wednesday. "People love serving the country," he said, "and love serving this president." Evans conceded, "Of course there is" burnout after four tumultuous years, "but the people who know the president best love him the most."

Although Evans said he'll contemplate his future in government "after the election," a senior White House official said the president will not be surprised if his friend is homeward bound.

Bush is widely expected to deliver an acceptance speech that sets out broad challenges, including unspecified "tax reform." And the more prominent members of his economic team are expected to remain familiar. Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten would stay, the White House official said.

"Snow is staying," the official added. "The president thinks he's doing a good job." Grover Norquist, president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, put it with a slightly different twist: "Snow is fine." Bush chose Snow to replace Paul O'Neill, his first Treasury secretary, in order to install a more effective salesman for tax cuts.

If major tax reform is the legislative plum that Bush wants from a second term, the Cabinet, departmental experts, and White House aides are not the essential players, Norquist argued. "It's Hastert, Frist, and the president," he said, referring to the congressional muscle of House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. -- combined with the president's own lobbying.

Other conservatives say privately that they want Bush to appoint a more vigorous, creative economic team that inspires greater confidence among the public and the business community, and that works to cut the $400-plus-billion deficit. But the White House official said Bush got what he wanted when he made his first-term changes. "What the president really needed at that time was stability, ability, and congeniality, and that's what he has."

One economic player who might voluntarily depart is Stephen Friedman, the largely unseen director of Bush's National Economic Council. "Friedman gave up a lot," the White House official said, referring to the monetary sacrifices of entering government after being co-chairman of Goldman Sachs and serving on corporate boards.

Bush's foreign-policy team -- the most controversial in decades -- is where observers look for second-term changes. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is expected to leave that post. "I would be surprised if she stayed in her current job," the White House official said. Her deputy, Stephen Hadley, is likely to get the promotion. "The president has a lot of confidence in him," the official added.

Although Rumsfeld's second run as Defense secretary has attracted criticism, Bush will let him stay if that's what the nearly 80-year-old warrior wants to do, sources said. "He's only halfway through his plan to reform the Pentagon," Norquist said, offering Rumsfeld a plug to re-up.

Bush is reluctant to allow Rice to depart, so he might offer her a Cabinet post. Her aides have said that Rice does not want the management headaches of the State Department, and that she might find the Pentagon more interesting, if Rumsfeld leaves. However, even Rice's admirers question whether she has the management skills to make the Pentagon job a success.

Sources said they did not know if Richard Armitage, Powell's deputy, would be happy to get out of Bush's administration or might be enticed with a promotion to stay on.

At the White House, Chief of Staff Andy Card -- who has described his job as "a calling" -- might remain, at least for a while. "It's the most interesting job he'll ever have," one observer noted. Nearly four years in that post is considered herculean. Card's office once ran the numbers: average tenure, 22 months.

"If the president asked him to stay, he would -- maybe for some months," said John Sununu, who held the job in President George H.W. Bush's administration and worked with Card. Sources added that if Card opts to depart, Bolten could be pulled in to succeed him.