What is most remarkable about Rice's work for Bush is not her advice—he could hear much the same thing from Perle or Richard Cheney or others—but her friendship. She really likes Bush, and he seems to reciprocate. They share deep religious faith—both are evangelical Protestants. Both are sports fans and exercise fanatics: During one early meeting, Bush consulted with Rice while she ran on a treadmill. Both are loose and funny but capable of hardheaded pragmatism when it's required. "We have very similar personalities," she says.
Some Rice admirers tout her for secretary of defense in a Bush administration, others for secretary of state. But many peg her as national security adviser. That, after all, is the foreign policymaker who works most directly with the president. "She would be at the center and close to Bush," says a friend of hers. "Bush would feel more comfortable in the White House with her around."