George W. Bush is still blamed by a majority for what is wrong with the United States and the world for that matter. So one would think he would be trying to distance himself from the Bush years but he's not.Ezra Klein:
In fact, that’s Romney’s biggest problem. It’s George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, who has made voters skeptical of many of Romney’s core policies. It’s George W. Bush, not Obama campaign strategist David Plouffe, who persuaded voters that our economic troubles aren’t mainly Obama’s fault. And so it is, in a sense, the electorate’s lingering fear of George W. Bush, as much as its residual affection for Barack Obama, that Romney needs to beat if he’s to become president.So this was the perfect opportunity for Romney to distance himself from Bush but he didn't. He didn't even answer the question.
At Tuesday’s debate, Romney was given a chance to do just that. A voter from Nassau County stood up and asked: “Governor Romney, I am an undecided voter, because I’m disappointed with the lack of progress I’ve seen in the last four years. However, I do attribute much of America’s economic and international problems to the failings and missteps of the Bush administration. Since both you and President Bush are Republicans, I fear a return to the policies of those years should you win this election. What is the biggest difference between you and George W. Bush, and how do you differentiate yourself from George W. Bush?”
“Thank you,” Romney said. “And I appreciate that question.” But his mind was still on the previous question. “I just want to make sure that, I think I was supposed to get that last answer,” he complained to moderator Candy Crowley.Instead he chose to continue to answer the previous question.
Notice what he didn’t say there. He didn’t say that Bush had gotten anything wrong before leaving office as one of the most unpopular presidents in history. He didn’t say, “You’re right to be skeptical of Republicans, because we didn’t live up to your expectations last time.” He said, rather, “Have you heard about my five-point plan?”Daniel Larison:
What’s remarkable about Romney’s answer was that he didn’t even acknowledge or endorse the questioner’s main concern, which was that the Bush administration presided over major debacles that are still adversely affecting the U.S. The questioner was worried that Romney would repeat Bush’s errors, and he responded by rattling off a campaign agenda that Bush could and did run on. Like Bush, Romney talks about fiscal conservatism, but Romney gave the woman no reason to believe he would govern differently. It was Romney’s “just trust me” argument all over again, and he failed to acknowledge that one of the reasons so many people don’t trust him is that he doesn’t seem to have many major differences with Bush.Romney's problem is the same problem the Republicans have in general - they can't admit that George W Bush did anything wrong. The Democrats should be taking more advantage of this and they will have the opportunity in the Foreign Policy debate on Monday.
Ed Kilgore has a valid observation
But Obama’s follow-up to Mitt’s evasions was interesting as well. He could have done what Ezra did in his column in pointing out that the big economic policies that led to the 2008 disaster remain part of the Romney/Ryan agenda. But instead, he focused on the areas where Romney has parted company with Bush in a more radically conservative direction: immigration reform, most obviously, but also Medicare voucherization (half-true) and a ban on funding for Planned Parenthood (which W. would probably have supported if asked, despite Poppy’s identification with the group).Obama missed an opportunity to tie Romney to Bush, something that could cost him the election.
In taking this tack, Obama sacrificed the opportunity to identify Mitt with W. in order to attack the “Moderate Mitt Meme.” But it might have been a lot more effective had he pointed out that Mitt’s party has decided almost unanimously that Bush was a bad president because he was too moderate. This was the verdict after the 2008 defeat, and was the constant refrain of the 2012 Republican primary season: the GOP had erred not by pursuing endless high-end tax cuts or relentless deregulation of the financial sector or a dumb war with Iraq followed by a disastrous occupation, but by creating Medicare Part D and No Child Left behind and embracing comprehensive immigration reform. Bush was equally faulted for failing to undertake (with the exception of his abortive Social Security offensive in 2005) the kind of assault on the big New Deal and Great Society programs now associated with the Ryan Budget.