Bush: Clinton Understands White House Pressure

The President tells Charlie Gibson his thoughts on the 2008 race.

ByABC News
November 20, 2007, 1:09 PM

Nov. 20, 2007— -- President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush said Tuesday that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's experience as first lady has prepared her to handle the "pressure" of a presidential race and the White House, and the president said he believes Clinton will win the Democratic nomination but lose the presidency next year.

In an exclusive interview with Charles Gibson airing on Tuesday's World News, Bush acknowledged telling an author recently that he thinks Clinton, D-N.Y., will be the Democratic nominee in 2008 -- in part because of her experience living in the White House as first lady from 1993 through 2001.

"I think she's a very formidable candidate, and one of the interesting things that she brings is that she has been under pressure. She understands the klieg lights," the president said, in a phrase he repeated twice in the interview.

"No question, there is no question that Senator Clinton understands pressure better than any of the candidates, you know, in the race because she lived in the White House and sees it first --could see it first-hand," the president told ABC News' Charlie Gibson Tuesday afternoon at the presidential retreat at Camp David.

The president emphasized, "I do believe our candidate will beat her, if she happens to be the nominee," although he refused to speculate on the Republican presidential field, calling it a "wide-open" race.

Numerous Bush associates -- including, most prominently, Karl Rove -- have said they expect Clinton to win the Democratic nomination.

That prospect is greeted with mixed emotions among many Republicans, who relish the opportunity to run against a polarizing figure such as Sen. Clinton but also bear the scars of battles lost against the Clinton machine.

Senator Barack Obama's campaign wasted no time in responding to the President.

"I can't tell if Bush is endorsing Hillary, hoping she's the nominee, or thanking her for her votes on Iraq and Iran," Obama, D-Ill., spokesperson Bill Burton told ABC News.

The President did allow one insight into Clinton's main nomination rival.