Why Hasn't George W. Bush Endorsed Mitt Romney?

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Even though his father, mother, and brother have backed the front-runner, he remains too toxic to be sought after.

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Reuters

Mitt Romney has the endorsement of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush and, as of Thursday night, former President George H. W. Bush.

Notice anyone missing?

The current GOP presidential front-runner, even as he locks down support from much of the Bush family, has yet to receive the official backing of the last Republican president, George W. Bush. He was nowhere to be found when Romney met with H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush on Thursday -- just as he's been nowhere to be found on the presidential campaign this year.

His absence is no accident. The Republican Party has done everything in its power to separate itself from its former leader, who left office with abysmally low approval ratings that helped boost President Obama to a decisive White House win. Two unpopular wars in the Middle East and a financial crisis at home -- complete with bailouts -- aren't exactly memories the GOP, or Romney, wants to conjure up as voters decide whether to give Obama a second term in the fall.

Even in a Republican primary, Bush's backing is problematic. His time in office is now universally seen by activists as a period in which the party strayed from its conservative roots, particularly on deficit spending and expanded government, such as a new, budget-busting Medicare prescription drug program. Other major initiatives of his, like the education reform No Child Left Behind, are similarly unpopular with the Tea Party set.

Asked about an endorsement from the former president, Romney demurred.

"I haven't met with President George W. Bush," he said. "We speak from time to time."

Eventually, as Romney's grip on the nomination grows tighter, George W. Bush may give him his seal of approval just as his father has. Expect Democrats, eager to remind voters who was in charge just four short years ago, to look forward to the event more than Romney.

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Alex Roarty is a politics writer for National Journal.

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