WASHINGTON -- Acknowledging that it will be "very difficult" to get re-elected without an economic recovery, President Bush says he is girding for a "dog-eat-dog fight" in the campaign and will do whatever it takes to win.
In an interview with David Frost that is to be broadcast tonight by the Public Broadcasting Service, Mr. Bush tried to project confidence about the economy, citing predictions that it will recover by the start of the federal fiscal year's third quarter, which begins in July.
In an interview with Mr. Frost at this time last year, the president made a forecast that he and his advisers have come to regret, saying that "the recession will be mild and the whole country will come out of it in not too many months from now."
In the new interview, Mr. Bush acknowledged that he would not be able to balance the federal budget during his presidency, even if re-elected, and that the government would go on spending more than it earned for the rest of the century.
In an apparent reference to his foreign policy record, Mr. Bush said, "I think also you've got a whole wealth of other performance out there that the American people are grateful for."
The president signaled that he was prepared to wage the kind of tough campaign he ran in the 1988 primaries and then against Democrat Michael S. Dukakis. "I'm certainly going into this as a dog-eat-dog fight," he said, "and I will do what I have to do to be re-elected."
In the interview with Mr. Frost, which was recorded Dec. 23, before Mr. Bush left for the Far East, the president sought to position himself as a conservative.
He faces challenges from the right by Patrick J. Buchanan, a columnist and former Nixon and Reagan White House aide, and David E. Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader and neo-Nazi who ran unsuccessfully for governor of Louisiana last year.
Asked whether he could be re-elected without an economic recovery, Mr. Bush said, "Sure, but it makes it very difficult."