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Bush seen keeping economic team for now

President Bush, re-elected on Tuesday, is likely to stick closely to the status quo in his economic team, leaving it up to top officials such as Treasury Secretary John Snow whether to stay or to go.
/ Source: Reuters

President Bush, re-elected on Tuesday, is likely to stick closely to the status quo in his economic team, leaving it up to top officials such as Treasury Secretary John Snow whether to stay or to go.

Analysts and Republican officials say they expect Snow to stay on, at least temporarily, to push tax reforms and other domestic priorities.

"I think he is very comfortable with John Snow as treasury secretary, so I don't think there will be a change until Snow wants to leave," said Ethan Siegal, president of institutional investor adviser Washington Exchange.

Siegal said Bush will focus on making his tax cuts permanent, simplifying the tax code and fixing Social Security. He may also concentrate on finding a replacement for Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, who is set to leave in 2006.

"I think we know something about Bush, and that is he likes to keep his team together. If John Snow is ready to serve, he will not make a change in that position," said William Beach, a senior economics fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank.

Snow, a personable former railroad executive, postponed his retirement to join the Treasury Department in February 2003, three months after his predecessor Paul O'Neill was ousted in a shake-up in the top tiers of Bush's economic team.

Visible front-man
The most visible of Bush's economic officials, Snow traveled to 22 U.S. states this year, with repeated stops in electoral battlegrounds such as Ohio, selling the notion that the administration's tax cuts had breathed life into the economy and should not be allowed to expire.

The taxpayer-funded visits drew political criticism for the Treasury chief, who denied his trips were campaigning and said he was on the road taking "soundings" on the U.S. economy.

Some analysts suggested a more Democrat-friendly choice might be wise after Bush's narrow electoral victory.

"Snow is not viewed as being very bipartisan right now," said HVB Bank senior economic adviser Roger Kubarych.

Republican sources say Snow could choose to make a graceful exit from Treasury after a certain time and may eventually be replaced by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick or White House budget chief Josh Bolten.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans, a close friend of Bush, has also been tipped as a possible heir but he could also stay in his current job, replace Andy Card as White House chief of staff or go back home to Texas.

Like other cabinet officials, he has offered little hint about his plans.

Other names circulating for Treasury chief are Stanford University President and former Credit Suisse First Boston chief executive John (Jack) Hennessy, John Levin of brokerage firm John Levin & Co., former Paine Webber CEO Donald Marron, and Bush economic adviser Stephen Friedman.

Snow declined to say going into the election whether he would stay on for another term.

Other analysts said Greenspan's replacement might be a more pressing concern.

"You've got a period of time where the president and his staff can mull over who they want to replace Greenspan," Siegal said. "I don't necessarily know they have somebody in mind."

Kubarych said Friedman would also be a likely candidate for the Fed chair, along with former chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisers Martin Feldstein and Glenn Hubbard. John Taylor, currently Treasury's Under Secretary for International Affairs, is seen as another possibility.