The move, announced Tuesday morning by the president in the Oval Office, came after weeks of mounting tension between the administrations and some of its Republican supporters who had urged the president to bring in new advisers.
In his statement of the West Wing shakeup, the president did not address the rising chorus of critics, but instead stressed the work that Card had done in his more than five years of service.
"I have relied on Andy's wise counsel, his calm in crisis, his absolute integrity and his tireless commitment to public service," Mr. Bush said. "The next three years will demand much of those who serve our country. We have a global war to fight and win."
To help him, the president turned to another longtime aide. Bolten has served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget since 2003, but has been in the White House since 2001 and was a senior policy analyst for the Bush-Cheney campaign as far back as 1999.
"Josh is a creative policy thinker," the president said. "He is an expert on the budget and our economy. He is a man of candor and humor and directness. No person is better prepared for this important position."
Bolten said he would assume the position recognizing the full weight of responsibility being placed on him.
"I'm deeply honored now by the opportunity to succeed Andy Card as White House chief of staff," Bolten told reporters. "I said, 'Succeed Andy Card, not replace him,' because he cannot be replaced."
Bolten, in addition to his long affiliation with the president, is seen as a practiced hand in Washington politics, having served in the first Bush presidency and on the Senate Finance Committee.
During a press conference last week, the president defended his senior White House staff, saying the lack of upheaval and change within the administration was a benefit.
"I've got a staff of people that have, first of all, placed their country above their self-interests," he said last Tuesday. "These are good, hard- working, decent people. And we've dealt with a lot. We've dealt with a lot. We've dealt with war. We've dealt with recession. We've dealt with scandal. We've dealt with Katrina. I'm satisfied with the people I've surrounded myself with. We've been a remarkably stable administration, and I think that's good for the country."
But former White House insiders cautioned at the time that the president risked appearing stubborn.
"He's not changing course; he's not changing people; he's not making any serious adjustments. He's simply coming out, and keep talking, keep talking. And, ultimately, history will vindicate me. That's the theory," David Gergen, an adviser to five former presidents, told the NewsHour. "I think George W. Bush, in choosing the Truman model, is taking an awful risk with his presidency. But more than that, I think it's a gamble for the country."
The change within the administration comes as the president's approval ratings continue to sag at historic lows, with only 37 percent of respondents in an Associated Press poll saying they approved of his job performance and nearly 70 percent saying they thought the country was on the wrong track.