White House spokesman Tony Snow said that Mr. Bartlett, 36, “has one of the most extraordinary relationships with a politician I’ve ever seen.”
“He and the president have a close personal kind of relationship, I think, probably unlike any aide and any president in quite a long time,” Mr. Snow said, adding that Mr. Bartlett’s familiarity with Mr. Bush allowed him to be “ruthlessly” honest with the president when necessary.
Mr. Bartlett announced earlier this month that he was leaving his post around July 4 to take a private-sector job and spend more time with his wife and three young children.
Mr. Gillespie, 45, who will begin work June 27, toured the White House press room after the announcement, greeting reporters and reluctantly fielding a few questions.
He said that he and Mr. Bush “have what I would characterize as a comfortable relationship.”
“I’ve worked for him before,” said Mr. Gillespie, who joined the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign as a communications adviser after several years working on Capitol Hill.
He said he is looking forward to working with the Democratic-controlled Congress.
“I have a lot of friends up there. I know a lot of folks,” Mr. Gillespie said.
He said that even though he was chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC) from 2003 to 2005, “I have friends on both sides of the aisle.”
“He brings an understanding and respect of many of the key constituencies to getting out the message — the Hill, the press, the news media, the grass roots. He’s also smart at formulating the message,” said Ken Mehlman, another Bush ally who succeeded Mr. Gillespie as RNC chairman, and is now a partner at a D.C. law firm.
Last year, Mr. Gillespie was elected as chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV), a post from which he resigned yesterday.
“Obviously, if seven months ago I had any idea that I would be asked to serve our president and our country in this new capacity less than a year after being elected to lead the RPV, I never would have sought the chairmanship,” Mr. Gillespie wrote in a letter yesterday to state party members.