Where’s W? The presidential campaign trail has had no shortage of Bushes lately. Barbara Bush has recorded robocalls for Mitt Romney; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has handed Romney a highly sought-after endorsement; President George H.W. Bush jumped in for Romney last week as well.
But the most famous Bush — the last Republican to hold the job Romney is vying for — President George W. Bush, has been mostly invisible from the 2012 contest. The Republicans running for president haven’t had much to say about him either. Neither Bush nor Romney is interested in seeing W. thrown into the mix further down the road. Too bad, say Democrats.
It also explains why Democrats say Republicans can’t avoid Bush even if they want to.
“There is a danger for Mitt Romney wrapping himself around George W. Bush but I don’t know how he avoids it,” said Bill Burton, head of the super PAC supporting President Obama’s reelection. “His economic policies mirror or are even worse than the ones that George W. Bush enacted when he was president.”
Burton noted that Romney’s team of advisers is “stacked with Bush administration officials” even though he says Romney is obviously trying to steer clear of W. publicly. As Politico noted:
This week, Bush junior was the elephant in the room for reporters who attended the Texas event at which George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara officially threw their support to Romney. Asked if he had visited with Bush while he was traveling through the Lone Star State, Romney said he had not, but that the two men speak “from time to time.”
But a more revealing moment came as the trio exited the room. “Has he endorsed you?” H.W. Bush asked Romney, who replied, “Uh, no, no.”
“We’ll talk about that,” Barbara Bush said.
It was an awkward conversation fragment.
Outside observers say that with the Bush clan publicly on board the Romney train, it seems likely that W. could help out behind the scenes. But if he steps out from behind the curtain at all — as he might in the general — he could do more harm than good.
Chandler said Bush “may engage key fundraisers, prominent establishment Republicans, and his family, to to lend Romney a hand,” but it’s probably unlikely he’ll take a public role.
“Bush’s endorsement would not help Romney,” said Jamie Chandler, a political science professor from Hunter College in New York. “Romney rejects No Child Left Behind, and the party continues to want to distance itself from Bush, as it did in the 2010 election. An endorsement would exacerbate the perception that Romney is a flip-flopper.”
Romney supporters say their guy will run his own race and can shake the Bush legacy.
“This election won’t be a proxy debate,” said Kevin Madden, Romney’s 2008 spokesperson. “It will be a judgment by the American people about the state of the economy, Obama’s lack of leadership on that issue and an affirmation that Gov. Romney has the right plan to put the country and the economy back on the right track.”