| President George W. Bush with his wife Laura (right) and daughters Jenna (left) and Barbara after his victory speech. (Reuters)
Washington, Nov. 4: The curtain has come down on the 2004 US presidential election with a victory speech by President George W. Bush, who will begin preparations next week for his new administration.
Bush, who is retiring to the Camp David presidential retreat for a long weekend after his first post-election cabinet meeting later today, is mulling changes in his cabinet which will take office in January next year.
It became clear before Bush left for Camp David that he will ask for the resignation of attorney-general John Ashcroft, the most polarising figure in his entire cabinet.
Ashcroft, who is so conservative that he refused to dance at his own wedding, insists on a daily communal Christian prayer at the department of justice every morning before the start of work.
There is much talk in the Republican Party that Bush would like to replace defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whose conduct of the war in Iraq and handling of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Baghdad exposed the President to his most difficult moments during the election campaign.
But Republican sources also said Rumsfeld has expressed a desire to stay on for at least half of the second Bush term so that he does not go down in history as the man who failed in Iraq.
Implicit in this request is a hope that the situation in Iraq will improve next year. Rumsfeld's close friend and Vice-President, Dick Cheney, may finally prevail on Bush to keep Rumsfeld at his job at least for the time being.
Secretary of state Colin Powell, who was earlier determined to leave the administration at the end of its first term, is now being quoted by close friends as nursing an interest in staying on at his post.
If Bush sacks Ashcroft, retains Rumsfeld only for the short run and lets Powell continue to guide American diplomacy, it will signal a more conciliatory and inclusive President, breaking from the divisiveness that characterised his first four years in office.
In his victory speech yesterday, Bush asked for the support of 55 million Americans who voted to deny him a second four-year term.
Reaching his goals 'will require the broad support of Americans', Bush said. 'I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. When we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America.'
The woman for all seasons as preparations get under way for the President's second term is Condoleezza Rice.
Rice's current job of National Security Adviser is hers for the asking. But she is understood to be uninterested in staying on in the White House.
Informed speculation has it that Bush would like her to be either the new secretary of state or become America's first woman secretary of defence.
Another candidate for the job of secretary of state -- should Powell choose to leave -- is John Danforth, the US ambassador to the UN, who took that job only a few months ago.
Two names are being mentioned as successor to Rice at the National Security Council (NSC). These are Steve Hadley, now the deputy national security adviser and the current deputy secretary of defence, Paul Wolfowitz.
Like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz is a hawk and is one of the authors of the invasion of Iraq. For the moment, Robert Blackwill, the former Indian ambassador, appears to have lost out in the race to succeed Rice.
He is now the chief Bush aide on Iraq on the NSC.
All indications are that Bush will keep his present economic team, which was shaken up only two years ago.
Treasury secretary John Snow will be asked to stay on while commerce secretary Don Evans is a close friend of the President from Texas.
The chairman of the Federal Reserve ' America's Reserve Bank -- Alan Greenspan, has had a long innings at his post and has announced that he will leave in 2006.
Several names are circulating as a replacement to Ashcroft, who has one of the most powerful jobs in Washington.
They include Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary and Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York.
Giuliani's name is also being mentioned as a successor to Ridge along with Marc Racicot, who directed Bush's victorious re-election campaign and Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.