President Bush, for the first time, is predicting that Barack Obama will be defeated in the Democratic presidential primaries by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"She's got a national presence and this is becoming a national primary," Bush tells author Bill Sammon in the bombshell book, EVANGELICAL PRESIDENT, set for release Monday. "And therefore the person with the national presence, who has got the ability to raise enough money to sustain an effort in a multiplicity of sites, has got a good chance to be nominated."
Breaking his vow not to play "pundit-in-chief" in the 2008 presidential race, Bush tells Sammon that Clinton ultimately will be defeated in the general election by the Republican nominee.
"I think our candidate can beat her, but it's going to be a tough race," the president predicted in an Oval Office interview. "I will work to see to it that a Republican wins, and therefore don't accept the premise that a Democrat will win. I truly think the Republicans will hold the White House."
Current and former Bush advisers sounded less certain. "It's going to be a very close election," said Karl Rove, who until this month was the president's top political strategist. "We are at this very narrow divide in politics."
The election "could go either way," Vice President Cheney told Sammon, senior White House correspondent for the WASHINGTON EXAMINER, which will begin running excerpts from the book Monday. "Right now, we're sort of in the area where we're pretty evenly balanced on both sides."
As for Obama, a senior White House official said the freshman senator from Illinois was "capable" of the intellectual rigor needed to win the presidency but instead relies too heavily on his easy charm.
"It's sort of like, 'that's all I need to get by,' which bespeaks sort of a condescending attitude towards the voters," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "And a laziness, an intellectual laziness."