RATING THE FIELD….Longtime Bush confidant Dan Bartlett is apparently less than excited about the Republican presidential field:

A former adviser to President Bush has a brutally candid analysis of the Republican presidential nomination contest: Fred D. Thompson is the campaign’s “biggest dud,” Mitt Romney has “a real problem in the South” because of his religion, Mike Huckabee’s last name is too hick, and John McCain could pull a repeat of his 2000 performance by winning New Hampshire yet losing the battle.

….Although he and the White House both emphasized yesterday that he was speaking for himself, Bartlett spent 14 years channeling Bush, so his views may be seen as a revealing look at the thinking within the president’s inner circle.

….The only top-tier candidate Bartlett did not criticize was Rudolph W. Giuliani, who he said has the “best message,” particularly because the former New York mayor has focused on attacking Democrats, not Republicans.

Giuliani might well be the only candidate who could eventually make us all look back fondly on Bush as a sober and thoughtful president. So from a legacy standpoint, I suppose it’s no surprise that Giuliani might be Bush’s favorite.

Alternatively, all Bush cares about is which candidate promises to kick the most Middle Eastern ass. I think Giuliani comes out on top in that contest too.

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