WASHINGTON — Six months after George W. Bush, the man, quietly decamped to a Dallas suburb, George W. Bush, the political symbol, has come out of retirement.
Convinced that Americans still hold Bush responsible for the nation's economic woes — and will show more patience with Democratic policies if reminded of their dissatisfaction with the eight years of his presidency — Democratic candidates have stepped up efforts to link GOP opponents to Bush, repeating a strategy that helped them take over Congress, the White House and a number of state offices in the past two election cycles.
In Virginia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds has pounced on statements by Republican Robert McDonnell indicating that Bush's tax cuts were good for the economy in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The Bush name has littered Deeds' statements in the past week.
"Let's be clear: George Bush is responsible for our economic problems," Deeds said recently when asked an unrelated question about the record of the state's sitting Democratic governor. "We are more than happy to compare their records."
Likewise, in New Jersey, the only other state with a November gubernatorial election, Gov. Jon Corzine, a Democrat, has been running ads that tie his Republican opponent, Christopher Christie, to Bush.
And last week, the Democratic National Committee released ads targeting four Republican members of Congress whom they accuse of blocking Obama's agenda, tagging the group with backing Bush policies that created the recession. "They broke it," the ad says. "Now they refuse to fix it."
New Jersey and Virginia are a testing ground to see whether candidates can still turn elections into a referendum on the Bush years. If successful, it is a playbook likely to be used again for the 2010 congressional elections and beyond.