The surprise announcement that longtime Bush communications adviser Dan Bartlett is retiring has set the GOP P.R. world afire with debate over who's the best replacement. Early speculation has settled on his deputy, Kevin Sullivan, and on former Republican Party chief and sometime Bush adviser Ed Gillespie.
Others include Treasury Chief of Staff Jim Wilkinson, Senate Republican Conference Chief of Staff Ron Bonjean, and Rob Nichols, a former Treasury spokesman who is now president of the Financial Services Forum. What's mudding up the issue is how the job will be crafted and whether the White House will make it a broad counselor's position, as it is now, or a supercommunicator's job.
"Remember, Bartlett came into this job first as a policymaker," said an administration official. Insiders say that Nichols is happy with his post and that Wilkinson plans to serve out the administration at Treasury and then shift to the New York investment banking world. Bonjean has served several masters, as spokesman for the House speaker, the Senate majority leader, and for former Commerce Secretary Don Evans, now head of the Financial Services Forum.
Gillespie, said to be satisfied with his business and service as head of the Virginia Republican Party, has been national party chief and a top counselor to Bush and is being pushed by several Republican officials.
Said one, "It would be great for the White House to have his kind of talent that is respected inside and outside the administration. The big question is, if this is true, does Ed really want to sign up for a White House tour? He doesn't need to bolster his credentials, so it would be viewed more as a favor to them."