Struggling With Makeover, Bush Gets His Due From Republicans

After leaving office with low support from his party, Bush is receiving praise.

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush.
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When President George W. Bush left office, the country was on the verge of economic collapse and mired in two deeply unpopular wars. His approval rating was in the tank and even Republicans wanted to distance themselves from some of his big spending policies, such as a Medicare drug prescription plan.

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But the new Republican party that emerged neglected the solid framework Bush left them, such as unprecedented support from Hispanic voters and appeal as a "compassionate conservative," those in the party say. And now many are waxing nostalgic.

"This party cannot be the party we've been since George W. Bush left office," says Boris Epshteyn, Republican political consultant who worked for the McCain-Palin communications team.

Mitt Romney's stinging defeat during the 2012 presidential election left the GOP reflecting on how such a seemingly appealing candidate – a business man in the face of economic calamity with a strong family and polished manner – could lose to President Barack Obama, whose alleged failure to live up to his first term expectations left plenty of opportunity.

Now, in looking for answers, the party seems to be looking back at the last Republican who won a nationwide general election.


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Tony Fratto, a former Bush assistant, says there's no doubt the struggles facing the current Republican Party – be it on social policies like immigration or fiscal policies like taxes – have created a newfound respect for Bush.

"There is a broad recognition that what we were trying to do on some really big issues like immigration reform and Social Security reform, they were the right direction," he says. "I think we're now getting credit for laying the groundwork for some of those policies and just the courage to go after them."

"There's a newfound respect for how hard it was to protect against tax increases, so there probably is some nostalgia for that," Fratto adds.

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Ron Bonjean, another GOP consultant, says part of the reason Republicans miss Bush is because they miss the power of his office.

"As each day of the Obama Administration goes by, Republicans miss the President Bush more than ever because they had influence over the direction of the country," he says. "Commemorating President Bush this week gives us hope that we can win the White House back again sooner rather than later."

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