President Bush plans major changes in his Cabinet if he wins a second term -- perhaps nominating the first female defense secretary and first black attorney general -- but very little change among the small group of his closest advisers.
Public talk about the second-term lineup is verboten around the White House, since officials realize it would look presumptuous and even foolish with the race so close. But Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and senior adviser Karl Rove have a mental list of likely switches, according to colleagues, and people close to the White House are chattering about the possibilities.
Many are speculating that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would depart if Bush defeated John F. Kerry, although perhaps after he remained a while longer in hopes of seeing improved conditions in Iraq. Rumsfeld's likely replacement? Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, who would be the first female Pentagon chief.
According to Republicans, the most logical successors to Rice would be Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraq war who might be chosen if Bush were feeling vindicated; I. Lewis Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Cheney; and Rice's current deputy, Steven J. Hadley.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who has repeatedly been cut out of major decision making, surprised some Washington speculators this summer by suggesting he might stay on. One possible replacement would be former senator John C. Danforth (R-Mo.), who was a finalist to be Bush's running mate in 2000 and who is now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Friends say that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft realizes he would be unlikely to be asked to stay on. The president has hinted he would be interested in hiring Larry D. Thompson, Ashcroft's former deputy. Thompson would be the first African American to hold the job.
Card has talked about leaving almost from the time he took the job but would be likely to stay for a second term out of loyalty to the president -- perhaps in his current job or as Treasury secretary or Homeland Security secretary.
Other possibilities for Treasury secretary would be Stephen Friedman, the president's economic adviser, and California businessman Gerald L. Parsky. If Card were to change jobs, his replacement as chief of staff probably would be Joshua B. Bolten, policy director of Bush's 2000 campaign and now director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot, a former governor of Montana, would be a possible successor to Bolten. Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans has decided whether to Texas. A possible successor might be Mercer Reynolds, the Cincinnati businessman who was a partner with Bush in the Texas Rangers and headed fundraising for the $250 million Bush-Cheney campaign.
There is little doubt that Karl Rove, White House senior adviser and the chief architect of Bush's reelection campaign, would remain in his job, provided his election strategy succeeds.
Communications director Dan Bartlett, another member of the White House's Texas mafia, is so close to the president that his influence does not depend on his title. Insiders say he could fill a variety of jobs, including his current one.
Mark B. McClellan, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and currently administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would be likely to succeed Tommy G. Thompson as secretary of Health and Human Services, according to GOP sources.
His brother, White House press secretary Scott McClellan, was recently married, is liking his job more all the time and might stay. Eventually, he might return to Texas. Dan Senor, who was spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, is frequently mentioned as a successor.
Nicolle Devenish, the Bush-Cheney campaign communications director, also would be considered.
Campaign manager Ken Mehlman would be given a major job if he decided against going into the private sector. He could be in line to become chairman of the Republican National Committee.