Your VP-Debate Prep Sheet, Page 2: 'Romney = Bush'

By James Fallows

A little while ago I posted a debate-prep sheet for Joe Biden, suggested by someone who hopes that he wins tonight's debate and that his ticket wins next month's election.

Here's a contrary, Plan B set of suggestions, from a former Republican political staffer who now lives in the swing state of Wisconsin. Compare and contrast (emphasis added):

Your debate prep sheet, frankly, sounds like one you would use if you were debating Paul Ryan. [Hey, remember, it's from someone else, not me.] It wouldn't be the best one for you, and it isn't for Biden, either.

Voters' eyes glaze over at references to Washington think tanks and which ideas were bipartisan 20 years ago.  If references to the Clinton years were a knockout punch for Democrats, the whole GOP would be knocked out by now.  He just wasn't as popular as Democratic political types remember.

BushGE.pngLook.  Barack Obama got elected because, and only because, George W. Bush was such a disaster as President.  Mitt Romney has adopted, point for point, the entire platform Bush ran on in 2004, and that John McCain inherited from Bush in 2008.  Romney never challenged Bush on anything; neither did Ryan, and Ryan has, along with every Republican in Congress, fought Obama on everything he's tried to do to help millions of Americans blasted by the worst recession in 80 years.  The only alternative they offered was tax cuts for their party's largest campaign contributors and, this year, tax cuts for their own candidate.

The recession was Bush's fault.  Iraq was Bush's fault.  Katrina was Bush's fault.  Romney and Ryan are both Bush Republicans, neither one of them having done any reflection or reassessment of the disaster the last Republican President inflicted on the country.  Romney = Bush.

I have never understood Barack Obama's prissy avoidance of that equation.  Right now, when the Democrats could still lose the election, would be a good time to leave prissy behind.  Bush was and remains very unpopular.  So is the Republican brand, largely because of Bush.  For good measure, so is Congress, in which Ryan serves.  You want to leave all those weapons unfired because you think it matters to voters that the Heritage Foundation once talked about health care mandates?

Obama, a product on his class, thinks very highly of himself.  He probably thinks he is President because voters in 2008 shared that high opinion, but all that happened for years ago was that Obama was given the benefit of the doubt by a country badly soured on George Bush and his party.  If Romney represented the kind of distancing from Bush that Ronald Reagan did in 1980 from Richard Nixon and Watergate, equating the GOP ticket with Bush's administration wouldn't work.  Romney doesn't.  This line of attack will work.

If Democrats have to work in a reference to Bill Clinton to keep the old goat from losing it on some talk show, maybe Biden can say the last Democratic President is out there campaigning for Obama.  Where is George Bush?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/10/your-vp-debate-prep-sheet-page-2-romney-bush/263518/