Bush stays off campaign trail

HERSHEY, Pa. | Despite canceling campaign events and all but shirking the campaign trail, George W. Bush” href=”/themes/?Theme=George+W.+Bush” >President Bush a week away from the election is still the dominant factor for Republicans and Democrats up and down the ticket.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain” href=”/themes/?Theme=John+McCain” >Sen. John McCain is running to complete Mr. Bush’s work on Iraq and undo his legacy on spending, while his Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama’s “change” pitch to voters depends entirely on the historic unpopularity of Mr. Bush.

In fact, in his “closing argument” stump speech Mr. Obama mentions Mr. Bush by name 10 times - more than Mr. McCain.

Through it all Mr. Bush himself has kept his head down, blaming the financial crisis and two hurricanes for keeping him off the trail.

“President Bush has kept the enormous responsibilities of his office ahead of political activities and has remained focused on leading the country through this difficult period,” said spokesman Scott Stanzel. “In doing so, he has chosen to forgo some previously planned trips to build support for Republican candidates.”

Outgoing presidents are always the focus of the campaign to succeed them.

The unusual aspect to this year, though, is with no vice president running, Mr. Bush’s legacy is taking a beating from both Republicans and Democrats, with each side trying to pin the president to the other party - or, more accurately, to argue how their opponent would be worse than the incumbent.

“When it comes to the issue of taxes, saying that John McCain is running for a third Bush term isn’t being fair to George W. Bush,” Mr. Obama says in his “closing argument.” “He’s proposing $300 billion in new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and big corporations. That’s something not even George Bush proposed.”

Mr. McCain is just as pointed about Mr. Obama: “We both disagree with President Bush on economic policy. The difference is that he thinks taxes have been too low, and I think that spending has been too high.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich earlier this year said Mr. McCain could have cruised to victory by opposing the Wall Street bailout package as a “Bush-Obama” plan.

Four years ago Mr. McCain campaigned for Mr. Bush’s re-election, and in March, when Mr. McCain sewed up the nomination, he received Mr. Bush’s blessing and said he hoped the president would join him in reversing the roles this year.

But that’s only happened once - a brief joint appearance in Arizona where the two men seemed to go out of their way to avoid photos together, even moving the event to a private residence, which meant there was no press coverage.

Still, the links keep popping up. When the White House announced last week that Mr. Bush had voted by absentee ballot for Mr. McCain, Democrats gleefully sent the news around to reporters.

And polls show just how much of a drag the president is.

A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday found Mr. Bush’s job approval at 22 percent, its lowest ever, and found that more voters think Mr. McCain will continue Mr. Bush’s policies than say he will go in a new direction, by a 47 percent to 40 percent margin.

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