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Morning Fix: Bush as Burden?

Will former President Bush still be an issue in 2010? AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The recent controversy over an article critical of former president George W. Bush penned by one of his former speechwriters has restarted a debate over how much of an issue the 43rd president will be at the ballot box in 2010.

Democrats, particularly in the Senate, seem set on using Bush in much the same way he was used during the 2006 and 2008 election cycles -- as an anchor around the feet of Republican candidates.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee regularly sends out press releases bashing Reps. Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Mark Kirk (Ill.) as well as former represntatives Rob Portman (Ohio), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rob Simmons (Conn.) for their support of the Bush agenda during the early part of the decade and, in Portman's case, for his work within the Bush administration.

"I think we can all be glad that George Bush is not in the White House anymore," said Eric Schultz, communications director for the DSCC. "And, assuming the Republican Party ever stops trying to feed voters candidates who embody what he did to this country, we might someday be able to put his embarrassing presidency behind us."

But, will it work? Will voters in 2010 still want to send a message about George W. Bush to Republicans?

A look back at history suggests that even the most disliked of presidents tend to linger over their party's candidates only while they remain in office.

In 1974, the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon -- coming as it did just three months before a midterm election -- badly damaged his party, which lost 48 House seats and five Senate seats. Two years later Jimmy Carter was elected president largely on his pledge to be the anti-Nixon -- but congressional Republicans lost only a single seat in the House and no seats in the Senate.

Carter's ineffectual presidency cost him the White House and his party 34 House seats and a whopping 12 Senate seats in 1980 but two years later any lingering distaste for Carter had clearly worn off as Democrats picked up 26 House districts.

Fast forward to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1999. While the onslaught of negative media coverage may well have cost Al Gore the White House in 2000, Clinton's shadow did not darken the door of congressional Democrats who picked up two House seats and five Senate seats that year. Two years later Democrats lost seven House seats and two Senate seats but those defeats had far more to do with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 than they did with the way in which Clinton conducted himself in office.

Of the Democratic strategy to link Republican candidates to the former president, Mark McKinnon, a former Bush adviser, joked: "Why not run against Nixon while they're at it."

Mary Matalin, a Republican strategist and former senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, said she was "hard pressed to see how attacking what will be by 2010 a long-gone Bush era helps" Democrats.

The simple answer to the question of how big a factor Bush will be in next year's midterms is that there is no simple answer.

Much depends on how much responsibility/blame voters put on the former president for the current state of affairs in the country and how much they lay it at the feet of President Obama.

In the most recent Washington Post/ABC News national poll, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) said that the Bush administration deserved the blame for the "country's current economic situation" while just 27 percent put the blame on Obama.

But, it's still a long way until next November and Obama will be front and center every day during that time while Bush will be off the map. It remains to be seen whether that fact changes the blame game.

The other variable to consider when answering the "Bush burden" question is how closely tied the GOP candidate at whom the attack is being leveled is (or was) to Bush. Portman, who served as head of the office of management and budget and as the U.S. trade representative under Bush, will certainly have to explain his service to voters.

But, for people like Kirk or Simmons, who, according to National Journal's vote ratings, stood at or near the ideological center of the House, it is a far tougher chore to link them to the unpopular former president.

As the irreplaceable Stu Rothenberg wrote in a July column in Roll Call:

"While Democratic consultants are likely digging up photographs of Republican candidates with Bush in an effort to energize Democrats and boost fundraising, the often-used technique -- a form of transference -- isn't likely to be nearly as effective in demonizing GOP candidates as it was when Bush occupied the White House."

In other words, simply linking a candidate to Bush in 2010 isn't likely to be enough to convince voters that the candidate is wrong for their state -- as it was in 2006 and, to a lesser extent, 2008. It can be part of the puzzle but not the only one.

Friday's Fix Picks:

1. Karl Rove hammers Obama on health care.
2. Dick Polman on why ACORN is overblown.
3. One step closer to Senator Dukakis.
4. Daggett sues for ballot placement in Jersey.
5. The final straw (again) for Sanford?

Coakley Frontrunner in MA-Senate: State Attorney General Martha Coakley starts with a wide lead in the Democratic primary race for the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, according to a new Suffolk University poll. Coakley leads the way with 47 percent followed by Rep. Michael Capuano at nine percent, Rep. Stephen Lynch, who has dropped from the race, at six percent and City Year co-founder Alan Khazei at three percent. Steve Pagliuca, the co-owner of the Boston Celtics, was not tested in the poll although he announced his candidacy Thursday and immediately launched a blitz of television ads designed to introduce himself to Democratic primary voters. (Capuano also went up with an ad that casts him as the rightful heir to Kennedy's legacy.) Coakley's lead is largely attributable to her name identification edge over the rest of the field but in a short special election -- the primary will be held Dec. 8 -- getting voters to know your name is at least half the battle.

Illinois Primary Gets More Complicated For Giannoulias: Much to the chagrin of many national Democrats who had hoped to unite early behind the Senate candidacy of Illinois state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, fundraising powerhouse EMILY's List has thrown its support behind Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson. Ellen Malcolm, president of EMILY's List, praised Jackson as a "dynamic and charismatic leader who is hands down the best candidate to keep President Obama's former Senate seat in the Democratic column." Giannoulias, who has been endorsed by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) remains the favorite for the Democratic nomination but EMILY's List will almost certainly help Jackson raise enough money to run a viable campaign against him. Republicans, too, have a primary on their hands for the seat being vacated by appointed Sen. Roland Burris although Rep. Mark Kirk is a strong favorite for the GOP nod.

Worth the Bookmark: Atlantic Wire, a new curated aggregation site by the goods folks over at The Atlantic, is a must-bookmark for news junkies. Terrific stuff.

Gingrich Goes After Latinos: Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has launched "The Americano", a Web site designed to attract Hispanics to the Republican banner. The site promises a "more balanced view on all the issues that concern American Hispanics today." Expect Gingrich to tout the need for outreach to the Latino community -- a growing electoral force -- between now and 2010 and use his work to court those voters as a plank of a 2012 presidential run (if he makes one).

Brown-Waite for Rubio: Florida Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R) endorsed the Senate bid of former state House Speaker Marco Rubio on Thursday, a rare crack in the establishment support for Gov. Charlie Crist's candidacy. "Marco Rubio does not try to be all things to all people," said Brown-Waite, who has represented the state's 5th district since 2002, in a thinly-veiled shot at Crist. Crist, however, retains the lion's share of support within the party, having already been endorsed by outgoing Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) as well as Reps. Connie Mack IV, Vern Buchanan, Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balert among others.

Click It!: This back and forth over taxes between state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Va.) and a group of reporters is as uncomfortable as it gets in politics.

Chat Time: If it's Friday, it's the Live Fix chat on You can submit questions in advance or just follow along in real time starting at 11 a.m. eastern. It will be fun. We promise.

Say What?: "There is no time line." -- Former Maryland governor Bob Ehrlich (R) revealing nothing when asked about a return run for governor in 2010.

By Chris Cillizza  |  September 18, 2009; 5:39 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Friday Senate Line: Filling Out the Recruitment Dance Card


It needs to be remembered come election time that the republican party is a party of party voters. A lot of the time these republican leaders are not even reading the bills their voting on. The party leader directs them on their party vote. Any one of them that refuses to vote with the party vote, the party refuse's to back or support them come election time. The none party voter then loses his seat. The whole republican party is responsible for the Bush failure because of their voting habits. They have made a laughing stock out of the whole country and continue to play partisan politics with the ruling party. So far as health care goes they have no intention of getting it right, their permanent position in our government and their re-election campaign's depend on it. The blue dog democrats are in total agreement with them. Vote them all out come election time, every single incumbent and republican.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | September 21, 2009 12:31 AM | Report abuse

"they've decided that they can make the last 8 BUSH/CHENEY years just disappear."

Bingo! jedg. This is the same party, the same ideas and the same people who put us in the ditch. Nutshell.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 19, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Clearly, clearly it is bed time . . .

Posted by: nodebris | September 19, 2009 2:05 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: nodebris | September 19, 2009 2:04 AM | Report abuse

"trying it with escaped characters:"


Posted by: nodebris | September 19, 2009 2:03 AM | Report abuse

2. Blame Obama for the economic mess and now the wars. What's scary is that there are people who believe the bull.



The same people who fall out on the GOP side of the answer no matter what the question is.

Imagine how much better this country would be if that 21-27% just leapt out a window and let the marketplace decide

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 19, 2009 1:41 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 19, 2009 1:38 AM | Report abuse

The Fix swallowed my html tag, bracket slash sarcasm close bracket.


trying it with escaped characters:


Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 19, 2009 1:37 AM | Report abuse

The Fix swallowed my html tag, bracket slash sarcasm close bracket.

Posted by: nodebris | September 19, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

dbaker40, always nice to hear someone expressing independent thought.

Posted by: nodebris | September 19, 2009 1:18 AM | Report abuse

The Democratic Party of this country ought to be ashamed of itself for claiming to be the party of the people, when as far back as I can remember, they really have never trusted the people to take care of themselves, solve their own problems.


EVen assuming for the sake of argument that this was something other than a dumb caricature, which it is, where exactly do you get the impression that the average American has the first effing clue what's good for him? Get out much?

Try it. Go to a mall. Look at the slack comatose faces, look at the bellies, look at the eyes at half-mast, the smokers.

Were your caricature only true. Jesus 60% of Americans can't even manage to feed themselves properly.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 19, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Some of you guys have got to be kidding me. We now have a president who appoints czars of this and that, we have the wicked witch of the west as Speaker of the House, and we have a sawed off little runt with a Napoleon Syndrome as the leader of the Senate. Plus the fact that they all drool out of the left side of their mouths, and you worry about what Bush did or didn't do? The Democratic Party of this country ought to be ashamed of itself for claiming to be the party of the people, when as far back as I can remember, they really have never trusted the people to take care of themselves, solve their own problems. Just remember, government can't give you one damned thing that it hasn't taken from someone else. I dare say that some of you that are commenting in favor of the current administration are "someone else", and don't even know it.

Posted by: dbaker40 | September 18, 2009 11:04 PM | Report abuse

In the last campaign (Obama vs McCain) I heard Bill Clinton's name invoked many times. In the 2010 elections we'll still be sucking wind regarding the Bush economic disaster and still have two wars going. All thanks to George and Dick, I can't leave out a Congress, Republicans cheering Bush on and Democrats, I'm afraid to say, not not willing to stand up to Bush.

SO now we've got a mess. The Republicans are trying to stifle any progress toward recovery so they can take over in 2010.

They're tryingto:

1. Blame Obama for anything they can, no matter how ridiculous.

2. Blame Obama for the economic mess and now the wars. What's scary is that there are people who believe the bull.

3. lastly, they've decided that they can make the last 8 BUSH/CHENEY years just disappear.

In reality it may be quite difficult to invoke Bush in the 2010 elections. For many Americans 200 to 2008 simply never happened.

Posted by: JedG | September 18, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Bush's war is still going on...that in and of itself will help. The fact that Republicans seem to lack any clear strategies whether it comes to Katrina, the war or the economy is their worst down fall. Lately they have an amazing ability to shoot themselves in the foot. McCain's pick for VP was to choose a sacrificial lamb, a buffoon to act as a divert in case he lost. Any woman that would vote Republican with that mentality in mind deserves what she gets.

Posted by: skybride56 | September 18, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Riddle me this, ChrisC: how many GOP candidates for 2010 are lining up to get their "pitchers" taken with GWB?

(shades eyes, rotates head)

Bush's albatross value is strong as ever.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 18, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

bush as a burden? hard to say. the bush administration as a burden? possibly. KARL ROVE(BUSHS BRAIN) very possibly.dick cheney will be much more than a burden unless the g.o.p. can find a way to put a lid on him...more like an albatross. more than likely, sadly, the republican party will succeed in placing the blame on the current administration for problems that were in the making during the last 8 years....all i know is that this coming year i wont be getting a cost of living raise(along with millions of others) on my disability. i wish some one in the republican party would be willing to adopt me and pay the difference in heating costs, food, rent, and medical care that the c.o.l. increase would have covered...since it was their president who helped guide his cronies to this point.

Posted by: dmhousandyahoocom | September 18, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't really politically aware during the Nixon era due to the handicap of not having been born, but I imagine that the anti-Nixon sentiment was more due to Watergate than his policies, right? It kind of makes it hard to run against him in proxy. It's easier with Bush since you can run against him in proxy by invoking his policies. As much as Republicans want to distance themselves from Bush, they are essentially running on the same platform that he did.


Nixon opened relations with China, signed NEPA, did a lot that no GOP president would do now, fearing the appearance of weakness, or tolerance, or level-headedness.

Watergate was his downfall but by Bush's second term there was so many Watergate-dwarfing scandals that we all got fatigued and barely reacted to real war crimes. No comparison. Nixon was a great albeit flawed man. Bush was not great in any meaninful way, excepting his smallness.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 18, 2009 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Waaaaayyy too early to declare the end recession. Shows the myopia of the Goldman presidenc, ooops I mean the Obama presidency.

Bank credit is flowing and the equity markets have so far survived the expected September "correction". The dollar is so heavily shorted it has to recover, as a practical dynamic, it is losing value too slowly. Inflation/deflation pressures remain in balance. All fine.

But a jobless recovery is no recovery. There is still lots and lots of unwashed (as in not laundered) debt or overhang.

People need work to service their debt and they need living wages. Otherwise there will only be rich people (the ones Bernanke knows) and poor people, lots of poor people.

Once interest rates rise and of course they have to, watch out. There better be jobs and that is a fact.

But Republicans? Beneath contempt. Still laughable.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 18, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

yeah right Bernanke - Mission Accomplished.

yet still, as a result of liberal economics:

Forty-two states lost jobs last month, up from 29 in July, with the biggest net payroll cuts coming in Texas, Michigan, Georgia and Ohio.

The Labor Department also reported Friday that 27 states saw their unemployment rates increase in August, and 14 states and Washington D.C., reported unemployment rates of 10 percent or above.

Posted by: snowbama | September 18, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

mark_in_austin writes
"Will a D Admin with a D Congress shoot itself in the foot [?] -that is what 2010 will be about."

I agree. From the political side, I think the Dems have to pass something even if it gets zero GOP votes. Of course, the GOP thinks the opposite, so will vote no on everything and call it socialism. The Dems will force some kind of HC reform through, perhaps using reconciliation.

Bernanke's been saying he thinks the recession is over. If he's right, unemployment should be falling & wages rising by next fall. If that happens, the GOP are in trouble.

Posted by: bsimon1 | September 18, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

"See this is what I have been saying,
people have to maintain a sense of humor about the Republican Rising! portion of the WaPo opinion blogs.

Posted by: shrink2 "

Yup, they're rising. Rising up to become Harry Reid's coffee go-fers!

Am I right? Am I right?? High-fives all around!!!

Posted by: DDAWD | September 18, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Remember, dim bulbs sound stupid, if you listen carefully.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 18, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Funny you should mention that...

This incident has very much to do with what I do and it is geographically pretty close too! A terrible decision to let this guy go on an outing under the circumstances. And you never say, "he was the model patient" it makes you sound like such a dim bulb.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 18, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

See this is what I have been saying,
people have to maintain a sense of humor about the Republican Rising! portion of the WaPo opinion blogs.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 18, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

where was chris fox all morning? chasing semi-colons? or:

""Authorities have put out a statewide alert for a mentally ill killer who escaped during a hospital field trip to a county fair, leading to fears that he'll become more unstable and potentially dangerous the longer he is on the loose with no medication. ""

Posted by: snowbama | September 18, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

the other end.


I like the cut of your jib, sir

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite

Of course, anything having to do with the other end is right up your alley, so to speak.

Posted by: snowbama | September 18, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

What a refreshing change today from the usual sewage. what's changed?

Posted by: snowbama

spoke too soon.

Posted by: snowbama | September 18, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

"CC's comparisons to former presidents are inapt. Nixon was unpopular, Carter was ineffectual, neither trashed the economy to the extent of a second Great Depression, neither got us into two wars for the fun of it. Neither was so personally disgraceful as snickering fratboy Bush. Bush's potency as a repellent should be good for years to come.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite"

I wasn't really politically aware during the Nixon era due to the handicap of not having been born, but I imagine that the anti-Nixon sentiment was more due to Watergate than his policies, right? It kind of makes it hard to run against him in proxy. It's easier with Bush since you can run against him in proxy by invoking his policies. As much as Republicans want to distance themselves from Bush, they are essentially running on the same platform that he did.

Posted by: DDAWD | September 18, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Newt Gingrich can eat the corn out of my burrito after it comes out the other end.


I like the cut of your jib, sir

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 18, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

So, what will be your excuse if the GOP actually pick up seats?

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

CC's comparisons to former presidents are inapt. Nixon was unpopular, Carter was ineffectual, neither trashed the economy to the extent of a second Great Depression, neither got us into two wars for the fun of it. Neither was so personally disgraceful as snickering fratboy Bush. Bush's potency as a repellent should be good for years to come.

Posted by: GoldAndTanzanite | September 18, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

"bsimon, I will agree with you if the Ds get a[ny] near universal health care plan and unemployment begins to
turn around. They can run as problem solvers and call the Rs obstructionists then. If they either fail to pass n.u. health care or unemployment continues to rise then no tactic will be better than another and the campaigns will reach down to the lowest common denominator of mud."

They could still paint Rs as obstructionist even if they don't get things passed.

But the best way to invoke Bush is not by name, but by the conditions under Bush. The wars, the unemployment, the stock market. Reminding us that we don't want to go back to how things were in 2008.

Of course, this necessitates things being improved from 2008. That's not really the case at the moment.

Posted by: DDAWD | September 18, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, I will agree with you if the Ds get a[ny] near universal health care plan and unemployment begins to
turn around. They can run as problem solvers and call the Rs obstructionists then. If they either fail to pass n.u. health care or unemployment continues to rise then no tactic will be better than another and the campaigns will reach down to the lowest common denominator of mud.

Will a D Admin with a D Congress shoot itself in the foot [?] -that is what 2010 will be about.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 18, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse


Do you not believe that bin Laden decided to plan 9/11 after seeing Clinton retreat from Somalia?

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I had the learning experience of living in Rob Simmons' district for 22 years. A moderate he may be but he suppported all of Bush's first amendment right policies to the letter, and actually sent me a letter decrying the passage of some educational legislation which he had, in fact, voted for. At events where he spoke, all he did was point fingers at democrats for causing chaos and, in fact, 911 itself. This did not/does not garner my respect for him.

Posted by: thefam | September 18, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

What a refreshing change today from the usual sewage. what's changed?

Posted by: snowbama | September 18, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

To answer the question, "Why not run against Nixon while they're at it." The answer is because Nixon was so far to the left of Obama that it would make no sense.

Posted by: caribis | September 18, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The Dems would be foolish to try to hang Bush as an albatross around the necks of 2010 Congressional candidates. As the Fix notes, Bush is gone. Instead, what the Dems need to focus on is the complete dearth of new ideas from the GOP. They are still repeating the same nonsense that the Bush administration campaigned on in 2000. The crux of the issue is that the GOP had control for a good number of years during which they fouled things up significantly, and its going to take a while to repair the damage. The GOP isn't even owning up to the damage their policies caused & instead or campaigning on more of the same, as though this mess was brought on by the Dems. Put differently, the problem the GOP faces is that Obama & the Dems have taken control of the ideological middle. The GOP is trying to paint Obama and the Dems as liberal idealogues dragging the country towards some kind of leftist nirvana, which is patently ridiculous. Dems need to hammer on this disconnect between reality & the GOP, and the election will go just fine.

Posted by: bsimon1 | September 18, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

SNL had "Michall Steele" doing the HIP thing last night -- I do have to disagree with our gracious host since I thought the "Joe Wilson" skit was funny -- the best was "James Carville" though!

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Recent reporting shows Bush's fondness for calling people "cats." It's like the GOP suddenly wondered in from a San Francisco coffee shop circa 1958. Pretty soon they'll be "blowing our minds" with some "far out" new ideas that are totally "groovy."

Posted by: nodebris | September 18, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

It's always great fun watch Republicans "get in touch with your ‘hip’ side."

Definitely, "hip" needs scare quotes in this usage.

Posted by: nodebris | September 18, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Wow, that was quite a Freudian slip; should be "The BUCK Stops Here".

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse


I would dispute your contention that "Iraq gained us nothing." As for conservatives not blasting Bush's runaway spending on other areas, I did raise concerns, but the primary difference (of course) was that we were not in the "worst economy since the Great Depression" © 2008 DNC.

How I long for the days of Truman "The Bush Stops Here".

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't think we have much to worry about from the Gringrich "going after Hispanics" effort. Here is some strategic advice from his website on getting "Hispanos" to vote Republican:

"By being more active young Hispanos are more likely to have a better sense of their American identity, a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and it’ll give them some patriotic pride!

Don’t be afraid to get in touch with your ‘hip’ side; we’re all young at heart! We should reach young Hispanics not only through traditional means but via the internet, and mediums familiar to them and that they enjoy. We must be present and consistent figures in their lives. We can’t just outreach and go! Republican leaders, on all levels, need to be committed to establishing this new relationship and make efforts to engage young Hispanics. Establish and nurture a Vow of Commitment – why and how they can support our Party."

All right, there you have it.
Talk about the need for some cultural competency training.

Sarah Palin needs to wade in and get that Vow of Commitment by getting 'hip' (wasn't that word used primarily by African Americans in the 50s, then adopted, through the bongo banging hep cats, by white America in the 60s...oh never mind). Or can Barbour or Boehner, maybe Pawlenty beat her to the 'young at heart' punch?

Posted by: shrink2 | September 18, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse


I was simply rebutting the false claim by "jiggy1119" -- regardless of how close it was, Bush was PRESIDENT for eight years -- let's see if your guy makes it that long.

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

It should be a long time before the Republican period of atonement for Bush is completed. Conservatives should be forced to remain banished to the wilderness at least until the final bill for Iraq is presented a few decades from now. Someone really needs to explain this to me: Obama's health care plan will not cost as much as Iraq and millions of people currently suffering will finally have access to medical care. Iraq gained us nothing. So why wouldn't conservatives blast Bush's runaway spending again?

Posted by: rmonroe1 | September 18, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I'm skeptical that trying to make Bush an issue will help the Democrats who will need it in 2010. It should go over well in districts and states that went heavily for Obama in 2008, but most of those should be won by Democrats anyway.

Two things make the use of Bush as an issue more difficult for Democrats. One is that Bush, while very unpopular for a long period of time, rarely set out to make what American voters saw as dramatic changes in their own lives. The Iraq war, for example, impacted people who were in the military or related to someone who was; for 98% of the country, it was something they saw on television. Health care reform is a different kind of issue. More people will feel strongly about it because they think it could affect their personal welfare. If they fear it could hurt them, they'll take it out on Obama.

The second factor is Obama himself. He has sometimes, as in his speech to Congress last week, made indirect references to the problems he inherited. He has almost never attacked Bush personally or his record since the inauguration, and most senior Democrats have followed his lead. Out of sight, out of mind, as Cillizza suggests here.

Now, it's possible that candidates attacked as "Bush Republicans" might react by defending Bush, starting a public discussion that would help Democrats. Most Republicans running for office get nominated by appealing to Republican voters who think Bush was a great President. Outside the hard core of the GOP, most voters would reject that view and think less of candidates who espouse it. But Republican candidates who don't have to talk about Bush shouldn't be damaged that much by him -- in addition to which, of course, are the races in which Democratic candidates have problems (like corruption, an issue in the New Jersey governor's race this year) that can't be blamed on the last President.

Posted by: jbritt3 | September 18, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse

For the Democratic base Nixon and Bush are great ways to rally the faithful.

My blood pressure is going up now even as we speak...

PS: I love that Jake reminded us that Bush Deux didn't win by more than a sliver of a point in 2000. A couple of hundred contested votes. Compare that to Obama's 3-4 point lead over McCain/Palin.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | September 18, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

The problem for the GOP is that it is still mired in the Tallibushie era; with the America hating Limbaugh sycophants increasingly the predominant voice in the Republican Party.

Cheney, Rove and Dumsfeld's river of pollution still plagues the GOP with 3 major problems:
1) Their role in the Office of Special Plans and fooling the nation into the Iraq war.
2) Their role besmirching of the US flag and Constitution in the putrefaction of torture.
3) Their role in the traitorous outing of an active US NOC agent, her co workers and all their assets.

The GOP clearly does not understand the concept of One Rotten Apple in the Barrel and they have at least 3.

Anyone wonder why the Democratic Party happily leave the Republicans Moral wounds to fester and ravage them as long as they want?

It will continue to cost the US Republican Party votes and Seats in Congress, Senate; as well as Gubernatorial, state and local elections for as long as they leave it.

The Republican party is famous for its cowardice and inability to make strategic decisions; whether it be in the nations interest or their own.

The GOP will not face up to the surgery they need.

Let them rot.

Posted by: walker1 | September 18, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

If you guys get a relapse of Bush Derangement Syndrome, then Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky is fair game again, right?

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse


Instead of "final vote" count, perhaps you were referring to unofficial "recounts" conducted by various media organizations which STILL indicated that Bush would have won even if proposed recounting methods had been used (including the one favored by the Gore campaign at the time of the Supreme Court decision).

Review of limited sets of ballots (initiated but not completed)

• Gore request for recounts of all ballots in Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Volusia counties -- Bush STILL wins by 225 votes;

• Florida Supreme Court order of all undervotes statewide -- Bush STILL wins by 430 votes; and

• Florida Supreme Court order as was being implemented by the counties, some of whom refused and some which counted overvotes as well as undervotes -- Bush STILL wins by 493 votes.

After the election, USA Today, The Miami Herald, and Knight Ridder commissioned accounting firm BDO Seidman to count undervotes, that is, ballots which did not register any vote when counted by machine. BDO Seidman's results, reported in USA Today, show that under the strictest standard (which the Gore campaign was NOT backing), where only a cleanly punched ballot with a fully removed chad was counted, Gore may have won by three votes. The study remarks that because of the possibility of mistakes, it is difficult to conclude that Gore was surely the winner under the strict standard. It also remarks that there are variations between examiners, and that election officials often did not provide the same number of undervotes as were counted on Election Day. Furthermore, the study did not consider overvotes, ballots which registered more than one vote when counted by machine.

Face it, you lost. I agree with Mr. Cillizza that Gore would have beat Bush had Clinton kept "Little Willie" in his pants.

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Brix is right. People want to clamor back to the GOP after 8 months of honest effort on the part of Democrats? Do they remember who put us in this mess and how they did it? Do they recall how the SEC and Dept of Justice were put on sleep mode? How the banks were let free to explore new instruments without over sight? How credit card companies became self-policing and personal bankruptcies got lots of new regulation? Auto industries that choked us with SUVs and then had to be helped through bankruptcy? Predatory lenders that ruined the housing market?

This tide of citizens that panics from one party and then back again needs to look at the financial situation of their family and ask what happened in the past 8 years. The Republicans happened. They’ve quietly put Bush on the shelf, but their party is exactly the same this year as it was last year, just as McDonnell is the same man he was when he wrote his Master’s Thesis 18 years ago. Their platform is what it is, and except for wanting the media show and the votes, the GOP has no use for the common citizen.

As velostrummer so graphically puts it, that goes double for Hispanics. I’d be afraid to click on that web site -- CBP would be at my door in no time.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 18, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

As a Democrat from Cincinnati, I don't think that Rob Portman will be too hurt by his association with the Bush administration. He's known as a smart, decent guy, who cares about the people and about doing the right things for the country. Unless the Democrats come up with someone really exciting, Portman should have no trouble being elected to Voinovich's seat in the Senate.

Posted by: gbruner1 | September 18, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

I read your heading "Gingrich Goes After Latinos" and naturally assumed that you meant with a club.

Posted by: nodebris | September 18, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

How big a burden has Clinton been for Democrats the last eight years? Carter for the last thirty?

I think the typical pattern is that Bush will be greatly useful for rallying the core Democratic faithful for fifty years. But in any given election, most voters will be more moved by more current concerns.

Posted by: nodebris | September 18, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Bush as burden? I don't know. He is looking better every day and the the President is looking worse hourly. We may be screaming Bring Back Bush by 2010.

Posted by: aloysius1 | September 18, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Florida vote count: Bush (R) 2,912,790 Gore (D) 2,912,253

Posted by: JakeD | September 18, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Al Gore did not loose the 2000 election, the U.S. Supreme Court won it for Bush.
Check the final vote tally in Florida!

Posted by: jiggy1119 | September 18, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

The brutal effects of Bushed Recession, particularly unemployment and under-employment, is most likely to last for years to come, according to most top economists. But, George Worst is all smirky smile, as shown in the picture that makes me puke my guts in total disgust!

Posted by: TalkingHead1 | September 18, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

The Talibushies will be used for the next 100 years. Why put a person in office who wanted to kill our troops for profit.

The talibushie are laughing at you DUMB people who believe them. Keep giving your money to the compainies who want death over peace.

Haliburton terrorists
Carlyle Grp. terroroists
blackwater terrorists

These are the new terrorists that are killing
Americans for HUGH PROFITS!

LIE AND KILL AND PROFIT! The republican way, and if someone says we should not kill Americans the republicans call you UN-AMERICAN! WHAT A PARTY.

Posted by: 1-20-09 | September 18, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I suspect the major issues specific to this case are more important than any past history. The major Republican case against the President will be excessive spending and running up the debt. The Democrats response will be that Bush created much of the deficit with his tax cuts. The logic of those tax cuts was that spending by the rich would promote the public good. Instead, that spending fed the excesses of our financial system, helped create the current econcomic crisis, and left the Democrats with no choice but large deficit spending to prevent a total collapse of our financial system. The contribution of the unfunded Iraq war to our current public debt will also not be forgotten. How this argument will be received by swing voters remanins to be seen. But, for anyone who thinks the issues through, the arguments are strong ones in relply to what is likely to be the center of the Republican's campaign.

Posted by: dnjake | September 18, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

As long as Republicans continue to push the same old platform, the association with Bush continues to be appropriate.

Wealth concentrating tax policy, reckless deregulation, and belicose foreign policy produced the mess of the Bush adminstration. You can't just drop the name, and pretend you're something different.

If the Republicans want to get away from the Bush label, they're going to have to start by getting away from the Bush policies.

Posted by: Brix | September 18, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Newt Gingrich can eat the corn out of my burrito after it comes out the other end. The only thing ReTHUGliKlans know about Hispanics is how to demonize them the Tin Foil Helmet Brigades that make up today's right wing.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | September 18, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

As long as Asshat Cheney keeps stucking his nose into the public debate, the Democrats should keep rubbing their noses into that big steaming pile of filth.

Posted by: VeloStrummer | September 18, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse


I checked Atlantic Wire out yesterday (on your recommendation). It's great, and I've added it to my bookmarks.

Emily's List notwithstanding, I doubt Cheryle Jackson will give Giannoulias much of a run for his money, but an incontested primary is always preferable.

Newt is at it again. Do you REALLY think that Hispanics, particularly after the way they've been treated by the Republicans (including Gingrich's own remarks prior to the Sotomajor hearings) are really going to fall for that pathetic pandering? Perhaps in time, several (numerous?) cycles the Repubs stand a tiny chance of winning them back, but as early as 2010/2012? Unthinkable!

Posted by: sverigegrabb | September 18, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Wrong. Obama could never have beaten McCain Palin if he had not first beaten the Clintons.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 18, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

The ONLY reason that Obama won the presidency in 2008 was because he ran a brilliant campaign "against Bush"! The local dog catcher could have beat him!
I seriously doubt that the same methodology will work in the next election.

Posted by: SeniorVet | September 18, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse


Great, evenhanded article. One of the most telling paragraphs of your article is:

'The other variable to consider when answering the "Bush burden" question is how closely tied the GOP candidate at whom the attack is being leveled is (or was) to Bush. Portman, who served as head of the office of management and budget and as the U.S. trade representative under Bush, will certainly have to explain his service to voters.'

I think this will be pivotal. It's for that reason I have my doubts about Portman, Christie's or Blunt's success.

I also think that Dems. shouldn't rely exclusively on that 'Bush bashing' strategy in 2010/2012. The Repub's 'Only we can keep you safe from the terrorists' message lost efficacy with each election cycle following 2002. The Dems need to come up with a fresh line of attack.

On the other hand, Bush/Cheney are amongst the most polarizing occupants of the White House in many decades--right up there with Nixon, and FAR fresher in the public mind than Nixon.

So if I were advising the Dems, I'd tell them to put a new spin on the Bush/Cheney legacy, PLUS come up with new critiques--judging by the nutters out there--Reps. Blackburn, Bachmann, Wilson, et. al.--they shouldn't have much trouble if they're not lazy or complacent.

I wouldn't have them drop the 'Bush burden' rhetoric entirely--so many scandals, so much breathtaking hypocrisy, such high-handed and ruthless ignoring of the Constitution.

Bush/Cheney are hardly beloved figures other than to a very small number of die-hard Repubs, and it's politics, so stoke the memories! Just find something new to use as well--that shouldn't be hard.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | September 18, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The 2010 elections will be all about the economy and particularly employment or more accurately unemployment. I would wager if unemployment is under 8% which is what Obama said the stimulus would keep unemployment under, the Democrats will have a strong case to make that the economic problems were of W's making and Dems have fixed it, even if there are still some problems.

This will deflect any anger about spending and bailouts, as those programs will seem to be working as intended; government takeover of health care or cap and trade, since even if these bills are passed this year, they won't take effect until after the 2010 and so people won't be able to judge their effectiveness as well as the passage of these bills hadn't a catastrophic effect on the economy.

The economy is the only thing which so far the Obama Administration has done which could be judged, and that is what will be formost on voters minds. The good news is it seems that the economy may be much better this time next year, so Dems may be in a stronger position than today.

Posted by: johnnyspazm | September 18, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Whether or not Bush is a burden depends upon who the Republican candidates are.

If they are Bush legacy people, then Bush will be a major burden; if they are novel (indeed, have novelty about them), especially if they beat a Bushie in a primary battle (like how Obama ran against the Clinton legacy candidate(s)), they they will be in a sense, running against Bush and we will at least listen.

But, for example, hearing John McSame rant about leaving Europe open to Iranian ICMBs was so old, hackneyed, he is a cliche.

Posted by: shrink2 | September 18, 2009 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Reminding people of the bad old days of republicon rule is certainly fine for Democrats, but as I said earlier, if they don't deliver in fixing the messes of the conservatives their funding and enthusiasm factors will drop. I can't see any sane person backing the Rs, but there are plenty of crazies and ill educated and uninformed -- just look at the astroturf teabaggers -- so a drop in turnout could be damaging for the Democrats.

The remarkable thing is that there has been a real remarkable economic turn around, but no one seems to notice. We were a 200 car frieght train headed off a cliff, and in 6 months that train was not only stopped but is now headed back onto the right track. This is nothing short of a miracle in economic terms. the incredible level of malfeasance, partisan based appointment, and incomptetnce we saw in the bush administration is balanced in a short time by the remarkable level of snaity, competence, professionalism and merit based appointment in this. in 7 1/2 more years we should be in a very very good place, ready for a new rising Democratic star to continue undoing the 3 deacade long debacle of reagaism.

Posted by: John1263 | September 18, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

november 2010 is a LONG way away in terms of politics. there is a trusim in politics that a year is a lifetime. this letter of bush will be long forgotten by next November. Democrats use bush as a whipping boy going forward at their own peril. He may have made this amazing array of messes, but we elected Democrats to start cleaning up the disasters of conservatism. If they are not doing that no one will give two seconds of attention to what bush did or didn't say or do. He's gone, and waiting for historians to uncover the full depth of his incompetnce and depraved lawlessness.

Posted by: John1263 | September 18, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

George Walker Bush was the Republic Party's second coming. Today he stands tall as the vision of what is yet to come.

Posted by: whocares666 | September 18, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Also, great set of Fix Picks today.

#2 is a good analysis of why the ACORN business is "small potatoes."

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 18, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

A decent analysis, CC, and I don't disagree.

OK, with one caveat. Personal animus (aka "Bush Derangement Syndrome") will have waned, no doubt. Some Republicans will get traction with "not Obama" especially if it's not "back to Bush."

How the torture investigations are handled may affect gains or losses in 2010. If the Obama administration is seen as going too far, there may be a backlash. However if there are real abuses found and they are handled responsibly, Americans may re-think their attitudes about some of Bush's policies.

Posted by: mikeinmidland | September 18, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I think Chris is going by standards and what history has shown, which has worked in the past, but in this day and age of 24/7 internet, people don't have to look far to be reminded of why they disliked Bush/Cheney. And it insults their intelligence to think that they would forget. Perhaps it's wishful thinking on Chris's part... like when he said that NJ and VA will be a referendum on Obama's presidency, and then when Deeds and Corzine's aprroval ratings started going up, he backtracked, saying it wasn't indicative. So which day next week can we expect this column to be backtracked?

Posted by: katem1 | September 18, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

MinA, I have that useless second X chromosome but even I know people called Connie Mack are of the male persuasion. I was making a sly, sarcastic female joke.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 18, 2009 8:31 AM | Report abuse

Voters for bush/cheney unwilling to admit mistake, just like bush/cheney.

Posted by: jama452 | September 18, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

In my opinion, Bush will not be a huge liability for Rs in the next election, although he should be. Bush represents the alternative when it is in power, and that was an unmitigated disaster. Am I happy with everything that Obama has done so far--not by a long shot. But I am still glad that he and not McCain won. I have yet to see a useful Republican on the national stage. By useful, I mean one willing to work in good faith with the White House. With Bush, Dems can point to NCLB and prescription drug reform. You may have diagreements with either of those programs (or both), but they are examples of Democrats being willing to work with a Republican president in good faith for legislation that they believe would improve America. That is the foundation of governing. Right now, it does not appear that Republicans are willing to do that on the Federal level. Until they are, it is hard for me to take them seriously.

Posted by: trep1 | September 18, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Margaret, I am sure you jest about Connie Mack.

GWB will not be an effective campaign whipping boy in 2010; all CC's historical precedents work for me.

I always thought the TARP was more critical than the stimulus, and I still do. The TARP stopped the financial melt down [accompanied by similar large scale bail outs in other western nations]. The stimulus plan is actually still in an early stage and 30% [?] of it was Grassley's tax cut. It has saved state jobs and contracts [I am sure your state capitol's newspaper archives will demonstrate that]. I would give it a "C+" so far.

I think the orchestrated bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler were better for the country than the alternative. There will be a pay back, although not 100%. There would have been only a hole where the unemployed related to the auto industry stopped paying taxes altogether and were on some form of public assistance for two years.

Logic says that Ds should gain ground in the midwest.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | September 18, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Former President Bush is good for a fundraiser and it provides a little cover for Obama on the deficit, but in politics its like Janet says 'what have you done for me lately'.

As bad as Deeds was in that clip it won't stop the momentum towards his campaign. He should remember though that this is WHY you don't talk about legislative details while you are campaigning.
But to get back to the main post, Deeds needs to use Geroge Bush and start running commercials talking about how the economy is getting better and does VA want to stick with the Democratic policies that have worked to get us out of this hole or do they want to go back the 'Bush-enomics' that got us in the hole we are in.

Posted by: AndyR3 | September 18, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

If the investigation by John Durham is thorough and leads to bush/cheney, perhaps the worst administration in US history will finally be accountable for some of their crimes.
Torture and lying about not torturing. Their preemptive Iraq war for oil and crony contracts. Greed of Blackwater, Halliburton/KBR's fraud.
The royalty in kind oil industry scam, cheney's secret energy meetings that led to obscene oil and energy profits.
Gale Norton's investigation. Enviromental raping of our resources.
Their administration committed the greatest frauds and crimes ever and they should be held accountable.

Posted by: jama452 | September 18, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Cillizza,

Bush as a burden for GOP candidates?


It's Obama who is the burden for Democrat candidates! Ask Mr. Deeds.

I live and vote in Virginia.

Although I have occasionally voted for Democrats in the past, I will not consider voting for one at the Federal, Commonwealth or County levels during the 2009 or 2010 election cycles. The irresponsible fiscal mischief being perpetrated at the Federal level by the Democrat led Executive and Legislative branches prevents me from doing so.

Specifically, the $787 billion stimulus bill (much of it un-needed), this year’s $1.58 trillion deficit, next year’s projected $1.3 trillion deficit, a $9.1 trillion deficit over ten years projected by the Congressional Budget Office, an estimated $856 billion over ten years for national health care, the government take over of GM, a potential enormous and regressive tax increase due to Cap and Trade, and an estimated, eventual debt to GDP ratio of 76%, etc. characterize President Obama’s unsustainable, ruinous, fiscal juggernaut. New or higher taxation is not the solution.

Arguably, my attitude is unfair to Democrats vying for elected office at the Commonwealth and County levels. However, my refusal to vote for Democrats at any level is a subtle yet well warranted backlash against the Obama administration’s reckless fiscal policies and out of control spending.

***I refuse to be even remotely duplicitous in the Democrat‘s fiscal folly.***

Commonwealth and County Democrats have the titular head of their party, President Obama, and a Democrat controlled Congress to blame for losing my consideration and my generally negative attitude towards Democrats.

Democrats or those Democrats surreptitiously masquerading as Independents need not visit my residence requesting my vote.

Posted by: furtdw | September 18, 2009 7:05 AM | Report abuse

the 2010 election is all about obama...
obama's war...
obama's health care...
obama's cap and trade...
obama on security...
if you support obama 100%, you vote for obama to maintain the power he has in the house and senate...
if you don't, vote out enough dem congressmen and dem senators so that they have to compromise with the Republicans...
you decide...
after all...
are you happy with the dem performance so far...

Posted by: DwightCollins | September 18, 2009 7:02 AM | Report abuse

From the headline, I thought this might be about the GOP struggling with its legacy... no, it isn't!

There was one surprise in the Fix this morning! He mentioned some women in politics! Coakley would make a nice subject for the rising except she's a Democrat AND she's got that second X chromosome. Hmmmm, I think this Connie Mack gal is a Republican! The Fix could write about her instead.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | September 18, 2009 6:29 AM | Report abuse

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