Yet on balance, Bush remains a drag for the GOP. Most Democrats and independent voters still disapprove of his job performance, and they tell pollsters that the country is headed in the wrong direction. "The only time George W. Bush is mentioned in the debates is by the Democrats, and that's to criticize him," says an adviser to a top-tier Republican candidate.
That's a bit of a stretch, since most of the Republican candidates aren't running away from Bush even if they don't mention him very often. Overall, GOP strategists hope that somehow the president can increase his job approval ratings before the November election, which could lift the standing of his whole party. But the strategists see no sign of that happening so far. The result: Bush is creating "stiff headwinds for our nominee," says a senior Republican.