TAMPA, Fla.- Republicans are doing everything in their power to downplay the party's former leader, George W. Bush, while Democrats are planning a robust role at their convention for Bill Clinton.
Former President Bush appeared in a video tribute with his father, President George H.W. Bush. But the spot was heavy on sentimentality and light on reminders of Bush's policies.
"They'll remember him for being a good, honest president who got a lot of things done," the elder Bush said of his son, who remains a pi?ata in Democratic circles.
Yet, most of the video was devoted to humorous tidbits from the Bush days at the White House, such as Laura Bush's recollection of the first dog biting a reporter.
In contrast, Clinton will formally present Obama for nomination at the party's convention in Charlotte, N.C. Clinton is as popular as Bush is toxic among Democrats.
For his part, Romney has also spoken favorably of Clinton, accusing Obama of undoing the former Arkansas governor's welfare reforms as part of his big-government blueprint. Clinton has rebuked Romney for misrepresenting Obama's policies, but such attacks have hardly slowed the Romney focus on the welfare -- or Clinton's reforms.
A prime-time address Wednesday by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the most prominent reminder of the Bush presidency at a gathering where the last Republican occupant of the White House remains conspicuously absent.
And while Rice offered a defense of American exceptionalism, she hardly highlighted the Bush administration. In fact, Bush and his administration was only mentioned directly once by Rice, in reference to three trade agreements negotiated during his tenure.
For Romney to win the White House, he needs to win over the Blue Dog Democrats who favored Clinton's economic policies but are drawn to GOP stances on social issues.
Easing Romney's Bush-avoidance strategy, however, is the 43rd president's insistence on staying away from the political stage. In fact, Bush has bluntly admitted that he would complicate Romney's path to the White House if he played too active of a role in the campaign.
In 2008, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also tried to distance himself from Bush but Obama framed the election as a continuation of the former Texas governor's economic policies. Four years later, that strategy has not changed.
While GOP convention speakers Wednesday lambasted Obama for continuing to blame Bush for the state of the economy, the Republican reluctance to put Bush on center stage underscores how damaging his presence could be if aligned too closely with the GOP ticket.
In fact, one Maryland delegate told The Washington Examiner, "I don't blame Obama for focusing on Bush. He was a disaster. But I believe -- and we have to prove -- that Mitt Romney is no George W. Bush."