Have Democrats dropped George W. Bush as a campaign bogeyman in 2010?
Only time will tell. But in New Jersey this fall, in a gubernatorial race where they could easily revive the effective strategy -- against a former Bush appointee -- some Democrats seem unwilling to do so.
During The Hotline's "Road to 2010" forum this morning on the gubernatorial landscape, Nathan Daschle, the executive director of the Democratic Governors Association, ticked off a solid list of reasons why Republican Chris Christie will ultimately lose to incumbent Jon Corzine (D), despite the Republican's current lead in the polls.
If the Bush brand is rehabilitated sufficiently by 2011, Republicans just might convince his brother Jeb to run for president.
"[Christie] is flawed, fundamentally flawed, for the state," said Daschle, the son of former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). "He's got no vision. When you ask him for specifics, he has none. When you ask him where he's going to cut the budget, he doesn't know. His positions on social issues are outside the mainstream. And we don't need to get into the string of ethical lapses, because I think everyone here knows about those issues. So, head to head, I feel very good about where we are."
But one name never crossed Daschle's lips: George Bush. Or, for that matter, Karl Rove, with whom Christie discussed his plans to run for governor while he was serving as a Bush appointee in the U.S. Attorney's Office. Federal authorities last week declined to investigate whether Christie violated the law in doing so. But does that mean Democrats, in a state Bush lost twice, should also drop the strategy of linking him to Christie?
Daschle seems to think so. "I think it's effective as an indication of where [Christie] stands on issues," said Daschle. "But in the end, I think we have enough to talk about that would put our candidate over the top."
A Democratic decision to throw away the anti-Bush playbook could have ripple effects outside of New Jersey. While former Bush Chief of Staff Andy Card recently opted to forgo a Senate bid in Massachusetts, other Bush appointees are planning to seek office in 2010. Former Bush budget director and trade representative Rob Portman (R) is competitive in the Ohio Senate race, while Tom Foley (R), a Bush ambassador to Ireland, is running for Senate in Connecticut.
And who knows? If the Bush brand is rehabilitated sufficiently by 2011, Republicans just might convince his brother Jeb to run for president.
Here are some other highlights from The Hotline's "Road to 2010" forum:
• Rising Stars: Republican Governors Association executive director Nick Ayers listed Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) in Wisconsin and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO Charlie Baker (R) in Massachusetts, among others, as the GOP's up-and-coming gubernatorial candidates. "Charlie's gonna be a star," he said. Daschle mentioned Alex Sink in Florida, Diane Denish in New Mexico and Creigh Deeds in Virginia.
• Recruiting: Daschle acknowledged that Baker was a GOP recruiting success for Republicans in Massachusetts, but he said Republicans have fallen short in New York. "If [former Rep.] Rick Lazio is the Republican nominee, then that's a big failure for Republicans," he said. For his part, Ayers said Democrats scored well in Georgia when they recruited former Gov. Roy Barnes (D) to run in 2010. But Ayers, who ran Sonny Perdue's successful campaign against Barnes in 2002, remained confident. "It made my day when I learned I get to defeat Roy Barnes again," he said. He added that the Democrats' biggest recruiting failures were actually their incumbents. "If I were a Democrat, I'd spend more time getting my incumbents not to run again," he said, predicting that Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) will be "Jon Corzine 2.0."