Cabinet Exodus Likely in Bush Re-Election

Nearly all the senior officials who came to office with President Bush still are on the job. But a big exodus and a Cabinet reshuffling seem likely if he wins a second term.

Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) has been widely expected to be first out the door after four years of internal clashes, though he recently left open the possibility that he might stay on.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (search) have told associates they don't plan to stick around, though Bush may try to persuade them. Rice could probably have her pick of  Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) hasn't said what his plans are, but many expect him to leave —  if not at the beginning of a second Bush term, then after a year or so. There's a growing list of possible successors.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (search) has said he won't serve in a second Bush administration. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta (search) and Education Secretary Rod Paige (search) also may be on their way out.

Bush says he hasn't given much thought to who would serve in his Cabinet if he's re-elected but will sit down "the day after the election" with his current team to begin the process.

Of the 15 statutory Cabinet posts, only two have changed hands under Bush. He fired Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in late 2002 after O'Neill publicly questioned the wisdom of Bush tax cuts. And Mel Martinez quit this year as secretary of housing and urban development to run for the Senate in Florida.

Of other top positions, George Tenet, a Clinton holdover, quit as CIA director in June amid criticism over intelligence lapses. Mitch Daniels resigned as director of the Office of Management and Budget to run for governor in Indiana. And Christie Whitman gave up her job as Environmental Protection Agency administrator after disputes with White House aides.

"These are tearing, wearing jobs," chief strategist Karl Rove told The Associated Press recently. "After 9-11, people sensed they had a commitment to the country that kept a lot of people in the Cabinet a lot longer than their personal desires or their plans had originally called for."

The stability of the Bush Cabinet reflects "the special premium the Bushes put on loyalty," said Stephen Hess, a George Washington University professor who worked in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations. But if Bush is re-elected, "there will be an exodus," he said.

David Gergen, who served in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, said that second terms are usually disappointments —  both for presidents and for those who serve them. "Anything you really wanted to do, you did in the first term," Gergen said. He said that strong and energetic individuals brought into office by a new president often leave.

Here are some possible contenders for a second Bush Cabinet:

— STATE. Recently, Bush said he would be happy to have Powell remain. Powell, who has deflected questions about his future, responded to reporters' questions about Bush's comment with a simple, "Time will tell."

If Powell does leave, former Sen. John Danforth of Missouri, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is considered a strong contender, while chances seem to have dimmed for L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. administrator in Iraq. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage would probably leave with Powell, who may wind up as the next head of the World Bank.

— DEFENSE. Rumsfeld, scarred by the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, is cagey about his future. Bush has stood by him, but Rumsfeld has many detractors in Congress and the military. While spry at 72, his age could become a factor. If Rumsfeld leaves, the job could go to Rice, NASA chief Sean O'Keefe, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Christopher Cox of California or former Sen. Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who once headed the Armed Services Committee.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is a longshot. "You can't have somebody who freelances as much as McCain does," said Edwin J. Feulner of the Heritage Foundation.

— JUSTICE. Attorney General John Ashcroft shows little desire to leave. He's well liked by conservatives, and serves as the administration's lightning rod for civil liberties criticism. But turf battles with Ridge and a reputation for self-promotion could spell trouble.

— HOMELAND SECURITY. Ridge has told colleagues he'll probably leave after the election because of his personal finances and job stresses. White House homeland security adviser Frances Townsend is a possible successor, as is Homeland Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson.

— TREASURY. Secretary John Snow, who replaced O'Neill, is known as a team player and seems likely to remain, at least for a while.

— WHITE HOUSE STAFF. Rice has told associates she won't be at the same post in a second Bush administration, portraying it as a "burnout" job. If Bush can't persuade her to stay, she could return to California, perhaps one day running for governor. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card has held the post for four years, a long time for the job. He hasn't given any overt signs that he wants out, but if he does Commerce Secretary Don Evans or Budget Director Josh Bolton might be moved into the post. Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, a longtime Bush family friend, is another possibility.

— COMMERCE. Evans, one of Bush's closest friends, squelched rumors that he'll return to Texas and run for governor. But there have been indications he's ready for a change.

— HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. Thompson says he'll take a break from government service after four years on the job and 14 as Wisconsin governor. A possible successor: Medicare chief Mark McClellan.

— EDUCATION. Paige, the first black secretary to head the agency, antagonized leaders of the National Education Association when he called the union a "terrorist organization." But he remains a Bush favorite. Still, at 71, Paige is viewed as a likely retiree.

— TRANSPORTATON. The only Democrat in Bush's Cabinet, Mineta, 72, has endured serious health problems. Bush may look elsewhere, perhaps to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham or Marion Blakey, head of the Federal Aviation Administration.

— LABOR. Elaine Chao seems generally content. At one point, she expressed an interest in being transportation secretary.

— AGRICULTURE. Ann Veneman hasn't signaled one way or the other whether she would like to serve in a second administration.

— INTERIOR. Gail Norton seems happy on the job. There are rumors, however, that the former Colorado attorney general might be interested in a federal judgeship.

— ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY. Administrator Mike Leavitt is relatively new on the job. The former Utah governor just moved his family to the area and seems likely to stay on if asked.

— VETERANS AFFAIRS. Anthony Principi has not signaled his intentions.

— ENERGY. Abraham is believed to be interested in becoming transportation secretary if that post opens.

— CIA. Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., is awaiting Senate confirmation. Whether he would stay at the spy agency in a second term or be given the more powerful position of national intelligence director —  if Congress creates it —  is unclear. Also expected to be in the mix for the new umbrella job: Townsend and Cofer Black, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator.