With congressional elections coming up in November, some Democrats are hoping to tie their Republican opponents to the economic policies of former President George W. Bush. Republicans counter that the midterm elections will be a referendum on the success of current President Barack Obama, and not on former President Bush.
Members of the House of Representatives have already left Washington, D.C. to return to their home districts for the August recess, and senators are set to leave at the end of this week. Lawmakers from both parties are already testing out their campaign messages, to see how they will play with voters back home. President Obama may have signaled the strategy Democrats will favor. Speaking at a political event in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Obama said Republicans under former President George Bush were the ones who had driven the U.S. economy into the ditch [decline], and now they are asking voters to put them back in charge.
"They have not come up with a single, solitary new idea to address the challenges of the American people," said President Obama. "They don't have a single idea that is different from George Bush's ideas, not one. Instead they are betting on amnesia. That is what they are counting on, that you all forgot."
Senator John McCain of Arizona was the Republican presidential nominees who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Obama for the White House in 2008. Speaking at a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday, McCain told Mr. Obama to stop blaming everything on former President Bush.
"Look he can keep [saying] BIOB, no matter what it is, blame it on Bush, he can keep that up," said John McCain. "The American people are going to hold him accountable this November, not an administration that went out of power over a year and a half ago."
Senator McCain also criticized President Obama for, as McCain described it, taking credit for American military success in Iraq. McCain pointed out that Mr. Obama opposed the Bush surge policy of deploying more troops to Iraq back when Obama was a senator running for president. McCain said Mr. Obama was, in his words, so small-minded that he could not give a moment's credit to George W. Bush for success in Iraq. In a speech earlier this week, President Obama reaffirmed that the U.S. is pulling all of its combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this month, saying the withdrawal is as he promised and on schedule.
Analyst Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia says that Democratic candidates have just begun to use the strategy of telling voters that Republicans will take them back to the failed policies of former President Bush, and will likely step up this line of attack as the elections get closer.
"They believe that if they can remind people that this election is not simply a referendum on Obama, but a choice between Obama and the Bush Republicans, that the Democrats will do much better," said Larry Sabato.
Sabato said the campaign tactic of targeting an unpopular President from the other political party has plenty of precedents in American history.
"The Democrats including [former Presidents] Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman ran against [former President] Herbert Hoover for decades," he said. "The Republicans ran against [former President] Jimmy Carter for decades. Certainly an unpopular president like [former President George] Bush is good for at least a few elections."
Analysts say Democrats are likely to face electoral losses in November, since the party that holds the White House traditionally loses seats during the first midterm elections after a presidential race. And this time around, unemployment is hovering around ten percent across the country and the economy is still in uncertain waters. With public opinion polls showing that President Obama's public approval rating is slipping, Republicans running in House, Senate and gubernatorial races may seek to tie their Democratic opponents to Mr. Obama.