Bush is playing 'pundit-in-chief' on the 2008 White House race.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - He has previously said he would resist the temptation to weigh in on the 2008 White House race, but President Bush couldn't help sound off to a reporter on how he sees the contest to succeed him shaping up.
In an interview with the Washington Examiner's Bill Sammon for his new book, The Evangelical President, Bush predicts New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination but ultimately lose to his party's candidate in the general election.
"She's got a national presence, and this is becoming a national primary," he said in excerpts of the interview published in the newspaper's Monday edition. "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."
Bush also predicts a tough general election race, but said his party will ultimately win the White House.
"I think our candidate can beat her, but it's going to be a tough race," he said. "I will work to see to it that a Republican wins and therefore don't accept the premise that a Democrat will win. I truly think the Republicans will hold the White House."
Vice President Dick Cheney is less certain of Republican chances in 2008, according to the newspaper, telling Sammon he thinks the election "could go either way."
Meanwhile, a senior White House official tells Sammon that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, Clinton's chief competitor for the nomination, is "capable" of winning the White House, but has shown an "intellectual laziness."
Responding to the Obama criticisms, Jen Psaki, a spokesman for the Illinois senator, said, “I don't think that Democrats are all that receptive to this White House trying to grade the intellect of our candidates or pick the nominee of our party.”
The president's comments seem to contradict his pledge at a February press conference not to play "pundit-in-chief." But White House press secretary Dana Perino said Bush hasn't necessarily "changed his mind" when it comes to commenting on the 2008 race.
"I think he has run for president twice and won, and has been involved in politics from a very young age watching his father in Congress and then as president," she said in an off-camera briefing with reporters Monday morning. "He has a keen interest as do a lot of us here in Washington, and frankly, it's difficult to not talk about the '08 election. There's a lot of interest in it."
“The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter what the president thinks about who will win the Democratic primary," Perino added. "There's going to be a showdown at the OK corral, and they'll figure out who's going to be the nominee, and from there the president will campaign vigorously for the Republican candidate, and he believes that Republicans will be able to keep the White House."
Perino also brushed aside the suggestion Bush's prediction is an attempt to excite the Republican base that is now in "malaise."
"I don't buy the premise that there's malaise among Republicans, and I don't know how any comment the president would make would motivate them one way or the other," she said. "I think they're going to participate in the process because they're interested and they care."
– CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney