Two weeks ago Red Elephant brought up the prospect of Democrats reviving George W. Bush as a campaign theme in New Jersey’s gubernatorial campaign. At the time RE asserted such a theme was a dead end for Democrats. Today, the Washington Post reports that Democrats in Virginia are now doing the same thing. This is good news for Republicans. It means Democrats in both states are afraid of losing and hope invoking Bush will scare voters to cast a ballot for the Democratic candidates.
Bush’s political cadaver was interred in November 2008, and the headstone put firmly in placed on January 20, 2009. Blaming him for New Jersey’s and Virginia’s economic problems after the catharsis of the 2008 presidential election is impractical. This is like blaming the old dog for smelling-up the house a year after it was sent to a "ranch in the country." Clearly Democrats are looking to revive the change theme that the Obama campaign was able to leverage for victory in 2008. That was a different time and a different contest.
Attacking Bush gave Democrats control of Congress and the White House while he was the 43rd President. Now that he’s back in Texas and no longer has his hand on the ship of state’s tiller he is not salient to this campaign election cycle. Obama was a change agent. That change was exacted. Now Obama is the status quo, as is the Democratic Party.
New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (D) has been attempting to revive Bush in that contest this year, with no luck. Voters in that state and in Virginia want to talk about now, not last year. To make Bush a center-theme to their campaigns in those states says that they don’t have much with which to challenge their Republican opponents. Ironically, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates there, particularly Corzine, find themselves playing the role of George Bush rather than Barack Obama this year. Corzine is the incumbent presiding over a faltering economy and thus more Bush than Obama. Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee R. Creigh Deeds is more John McCain than he is Obama as he is following a Democratic predecessor, Gov. Tim Kaine who had an economic meltdown on his watch.
With only ten percent of New Jersey voters saying Corzine attacks on his opponent Chris Christie (R-NJ) are fair, it is clear that dog won’t hunt. Virginia voters likely feel the same. In Virginia the Republican candidate for governor, Bob McDonnell leads Deeds 55% to 40% in a recent survey, indicating that Gov. Kaine does not have much leverage with voters seeking change – making McDonnell the kind of change agent that Obama was in 2008. A further indication that Kaine is the real Bush-like variable in Virginia right now is that his favorable to unfavorable rating is roughly 1:1.
The fact that Democrats are reaching to bring George Bush into these elections means Republicans should be hopeful about the November elections. While neither Christie nor McDonnell are the brand of Republicans that RE thinks is needed for the GOP, neither are they hyperbolically ideological. That neither GOP candidate features a “Values” plank in their campaign platform, but instead feature platforms that are issue and solution oriented is a sign that some in the GOP realize dictating personal values to the voters is not a recipe for victory – and that is a good thing.