If Bush’s brain were divided into lobes, Karl Rove was the left side, and Dan Bartlett the right. The way right side. Recently, he offered the assessment that many have been drooling for, that is the Neocon/White House assessment of the field. No one is seeking the endorsement of this administration, and Bush might be the least busy campaigning lame duck since Rutherford Hayes. His candid assessment? From a recent Washington Post column:
“John McCain: could pull a repeat of his 2000 performance by winning New Hampshire yet losing the battle. Bartlett was more sympathetic to McCain, calling the senator from Arizona the ‘biggest wild card’ at this point. ‘He is now where he does his best,’ Bartlett said. ‘He's lean, he's mean, he's out there, he's fighting in New Hampshire. The problem's going to be it always comes down to money, money, money. He doesn't have it. The irony could be he could see this thing play out the exact same way it did in 2000. He could win in New Hampshire and not have any infrastructure or funding to maximize it in a national campaign.’”
“Bartlett declined to predict the nominee. "Republicans, I believe, are terrified about losing the presidency after losing Congress," he said. "I think this is going to be the season of the pragmatic Republican voter. That bodes well for Rudy and it gives McCain a shot, because I think people feel McCain can go toe-to-toe with Hillary in the general election.’”
“’Bartlett gave his appraisal during a Sept. 13 joint appearance with Terence R. McAuliffe, campaign chairman for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). Video excerpts were posted on the Web site of Leading Authorities, a speakers bureau. Bartlett said he was not conveying Bush's opinions. "They were my views only," he said. White House press secretary Dana Perino echoed that: "He is a private citizen now, expressing his private views. He is not speaking for the president.’”
I for one, think that Bartlett’s assessment is pretty candid. While he does berate the rest of the field, I left that out to focus on the McCain analysis. Bartlett is right, the pragmatic Republican voter, the one who says that having a leader ala Giuliani/McCain in the White House, who can stop Hillary Rodham Clinton from becoming president, is where the votes will fall. Many well-heeled contenders have fallen to the ash heap because their message was not clear (Forbes, Kerry, Perot, Dean, and so on). The boring, slack jawed start to Thompson’s campaign, Flip Romney, and the like will not keep Hillary out. McCain’s leadership and pragmatism can.