Another Top Bush Aide Makes an Exit

(By Win Mcnamee -- Getty Images)
By Michael A. Fletcher
Monday, May 28, 2007

As the Bush administration inches closer to its concluding months, more top aides are headed out to the private sector. Sara M. Taylor, the White House political director and microtargeting guru who has been with George W. Bush from the outset of his first presidential campaign, is the latest staff member to leave the president's employ.

Taylor, 32, was one of the first people put on the payroll of the Bush campaign, trekking through snowy Washington to interview with Karl Rove and Bush, who was then governor of Texas. Taylor worked on the 2000 campaign, and later became a political aide in the White House.

In 2004, she worked on Bush's reelection campaign, where she helped refine the emerging political art of microtargeting. Working with Alex Gage of TargetPoint Consulting, Taylor was among those who helped use sophisticated analysis of consumer data to enable the Bush campaign to target potential voters even when they resided in Democratic-leaning voting districts.

The campaign developed lists of potentially sympathetic voters, based in part on computer analysis of people's spending habits. Those voters were then targeted for direct mail and other advertising. The data-mining techniques are credited with giving Republicans a decisive turnout advantage in the 2004 election; they are now commonly practiced by Democrats as well.

Some analysts projected that the GOP's precision turnout expertise would allow the party to build an enduring majority. But given the results of the 2006 midterm election, which gave Democrats control of Congress, that has not proved to be the case.

Taylor cleared out her office early last week. She plans to take her skills to the private sector, where the pay will no doubt be better than the $137,000 she earned in 2006 as a deputy assistant to the president. "I haven't decided on anything," Taylor said. "I'm looking at a handful of different options."

She says she plans to take off six weeks before going to her new job. And, she says, whatever happens, she is determined not to sign up with any of the 2008 presidential candidates. "I have avoided all temptations to go back into the campaign," she said. "I've done three presidentials; I think that is enough."

Taylor's departure leaves a big hole in the White House's political operation, as the administration works with an often hostile Congress to push for policy changes including immigration reform, energy initiatives and renewal of the president's signature education accountability law. "She did a very superb job in every role she has been called on," said Rove, Bush's chief political strategist. "It is a big loss for us."

He said a replacement for Taylor should be announced this week.

Taylor is the latest top Bush aide to leave in recent weeks. Earlier this month, deputy national security adviser J.D. Crouch II announced plans to step down. His departure followed that of Meghan O'Sullivan, the deputy national security adviser who oversaw the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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