Bush says Hillary Clinton will be candidate

President Bush has backed Hillary Clinton to win the Democrat nomination for presidential candidate in next year’s elections.

But he also predicted she will be defeated in the race to lead the country by whoever becomes the Republican nominee.

“I believe our candidate can beat her but it’s going to be a tough race,” the president said.

It has been difficult for President Bush to remain silent about the 2008 race, despite his promises not to be the “prognosticator in chief.”

He has been talking about the election and giving his estimates of candidates’ chances during off-the-record briefings with visitors to the White House.

He finally went public with his Clinton prediction in an interview for a book by journalist Bill Sammon.

“She’s got a great national presence and this is becoming a national primary,” Mr Bush said.

“And therefore the person with the national presence, who has got the ability to raise enough money to sustain an effort in a multiplicity of sites, has got a good chance to be nominated.”

The White House did not challenge the account.

“Frankly, it’s difficult to not talk about the ’08 election a lot,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. “There’s a lot of interest in it and it does have consequence.”

She denied the notion that Mr Bush was talking up Mrs Clinton’s prospects in order to motivate the Republican base against her candidacy.

“The bottom line is, it really doesn’t matter what the president thinks about who will win the Democratic primary,” Ms Perino said. “There’s going to be a showdown ...and they’ll figure out whose going to be the nominee and from there the president will campaign vigorously for the Republican candidate.

On the Republican side, Mr Bush has expressed surprise that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani remains the front-runner despite his liberal positions on social and cultural issues normally critical to the party base, according to The Washington Post. It ran a story about the president’s recent off-the-record chat with television news anchors and Sunday show hosts.

Mr Bush said Mr Giuliani’s popularity was a sign of how important the terrorism issue is to Republican voters, the newspaper said. It said Mr Bush cautioned against ruling out Senator John McCain, saying he had managed to revive his campaign after an implosion earlier this year.

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