Bush Still Searching For New GOP Chairman
WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush on Tuesday was still mulling over a list of candidates for national Republican Party chairman and a top aide said he was not likely to make the selection before the end of the week.
Among the names emerging as strong contenders, according to administration officials were those of GOP political operative Rich Bond and outgoing New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers.
Carruthers was summoned to the White House on Tuesday by Chief of Staff John Sununu, his New Mexico office said. Sununu earlier asked him to replace outgoing drug policy director William Bennett, but Carruthers turned it down, said his press secretary Eddie Binder.
Arriving in New Mexico Tuesday evening, Carruthers said he made a commitment to help in the Bush re-election campaign, but he declined to say whether he was offered to position of party chairman.
However, the administration sources, speaking on condition of anonymity said other names were still live prospects for RNC chairman as well. They said Bush was keeping very close counsel on the matter and was likely to announce the decision on very short notice.
One senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was a chance of less than 20 percent that Bush would make a final decision on the matter before leaving at the end of the week to spend the Christmas holiday at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.
The official said there was no real pressure to make a quick decision, since the Republican National Committee, which technically will choose its chairman does not meet until Jan. 25. The RNC is expected to rubber stamp Bush’s choice.
The official said aides had given him a list of 12 to 15 possible candidates, and that Bush was adding and subtracting his own candidates.
The search has resumed since Bush’s first choice, outgoing drug policy director Bennett, accepted and then rejected the offer saying he had too many financial aspirations that might pose conflict of interest questions.
Many White House officials are lining up behind Bond’s candidacy, going with his strength as a political strategist in lieu of a bombastic public speaker like Bennett, according to some sources.
After Bennett rejected the post, administration officials were divided on whether it would be better to find a flashy public personage or pick someone who had more campaign strategy credentials.
Among the potential candidates in the former category, the names of Transportation Secretary Sam Skinner, Housing Secretary Jack Kemp and outgoing Sen. William Armstrong, R-Colo., were mentioned, along with Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
In the political operative category, names that still were mentioned on Tuesday were former Rep. Tom Loeffler, now a Texas attorney, and Michigan GOP Chairman Spencer Abraham, a political aide to Vice President Dan Quayle.
Bond who organized the Iowa caucuses for Bush in the 1988 presidential campaign and then served as political director, is credited with helping to solidify the Republican base for Bush. He now has a Virginia consulting business.
Carruthers was elected governor in 1986 and was barred by law from seeking a second term this year. His term is up Jan. 1, and he has indicated he would like to take some time out from public life. He told Sununu that when he was offered a chance to be considered or drug czar, said Binder.
Carruthers also served as state GOP chairman in new Mexico and was an assistant interior secretary from 1981 to 1984.