Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bush expects to be "roped into" campaigning for the eventual Republican presidential nominee in 2008

Bush to stay neutral in party nomination battle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - George W. Bush said on Monday he would spend the rest of his presidency working as hard as he could for the American people and would stay neutral in the battle among fellow Republicans to succeed him.

Answering questions after a speech at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, Bush said he assumed he would be "roped into" campaigning for the eventual Republican presidential nominee in 2008.

But until there was a nominee, "I'm just going to let the politics run its course," he said.

Several Republicans who would like to succeed Bush are already laying the groundwork for a campaign. Potential candidates include Arizona Sen. John McCain, Virginia Sen. George Allen, Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

"I'm not through yet, you know... I am going to spend two-and-a-half years charging as hard as I possibly can -- I want to sprint out of office," Bush said.

The Republican contest promises to be hotly-contested because there is no clear successor to Bush. Vice President Dick Cheney, who would be the obvious heir apparent, has often said he would not run.

Bush said he welcomed that decision. "I'm glad my vice president is not running for president. Not that he would(n't) make a great president, but that it certainly changes the dynamics inside the White House," he said.

Bush is suffering from job approval ratings below 40 percent and some Republicans have distanced themselves from him. Still, the president has been actively raising money for his party's candidates in this November's mid-term elections.

Historically, second term incumbents have often lost influence in their final two years in office as Americans look ahead to the next election and the next generation of leaders.

Many political analysts believe Bush, struggling with the Iraq war and various other problems, will become a lame duck sooner rather than later.