George W. Bush absent from GOP election push

Unlike President Clinton, the former Republican leader is not a party promoter

Topics: George W. Bush, 2010 Elections, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Tea Parties,

Former President Bill Clinton is busy on the campaign trail, helping candidates in races from Florida to Washington state. His successor, George W. Bush? Holed up in Texas.

Bush left office deeply unpopular and sour on domestic politics. After leaving Washington and returning to Texas, he has kept a low profile, working on his memoir and appearing only occasionally at paid speeches. Aides say he has no plans to be a figure in this year’s elections, which could see major gains for the GOP.

Republicans, who paid electoral costs in 2006 and 2008 for Bush’s unpopularity, are hardly clamoring for the 43rd president to join them on the campaign trail. After all, an Associated Press-GfK poll last month found 55 percent of all Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Bush and 51 percent blame him for the economic crisis that began on his watch.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — An insider’s view of this year’s elections based on reports from around the nation.

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While he enjoys popularity with base conservatives, Bush is not necessarily an in-demand figure for candidates trying to fault President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats for the economic mess. Republicans across the nation are trying to lay the blame for 15 million out-of-work Americans at Democrats’ feet.

Republican strategists are quick to say they respect the former president but add they are not begging him to join candidates at rallies. Bush’s unpopularity was one of the chief reasons Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid in 2008 failed, as then-candidate Obama’s allies painted the Arizona Republican as a mere third term for Bush.

Since leaving office, Bush has written a memoir, set to be published after the Nov. 2 election. “Decision Points” will be released on Nov. 9 with an initial printing of 1.5 million copies — the same run Clinton enjoyed for his memoir.

For his part, Clinton has emerged a popular figure for Democrats. Since leaving office in 2001, the president has repaired his image and used his star power to raise millions of dollars for developing countries and for Democrats. Clinton’s schedule has him visiting Kentucky, Nevada and his home state of Arkansas on behalf of Democrats in tough races.

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The Federal Election Commission has flagged U.S. Senate candidates 24 times since major fundraising started last year for taking contributions that appear to exceed federal limits, but almost half of the notices have gone to just three candidates, an Associated Press review found.

GOP candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho have received four notices each while Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York got three. Thirteen other candidates have received one notice each.

Individuals can donate up to $2,400 per candidate for the primary and another $2,400 for the general election.

Rubio’s Democratic opponent, Kendrick Meek, got one notice.

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The committee that oversees Republican efforts in this year’s U.S. Senate races says it’s putting another $1 million into the California race between Carly Fiorina and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Amber Marchand, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says that the organization’s investment in Fiorina’s campaign now totals almost $3 million.

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Polls have shown Boxer with a lead in the race, but Marchand said Friday that the additional money shows that GOP officials are confident that Fiorina can win.

The committee that oversees Democratic efforts in this year’s Senate races has not said whether it will make a similar investment in the California race.

Boxer and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is not up for re-election this year, have held both Senate seats in California since 1992.

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Annoyed by television ads from a third party group targeting him in his re-election campaign, Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley went to the group’s headquarters for an explanation — and found a mailbox.

In a YouTube video his campaign distributed on Friday, Braley went to the address listed on the website of the American Future Fund. The group has paid for television ads targeting Braley, who is running against former Republican congressional staffer Ben Lange.

The Des Moines address listed for the American Future Fund is the location of a UPS Store, as Braley discovers. When Braley asks the store’s clerk about a reference on the American Future Fund’s website to a suite number, he’s referred to the group’s mailbox.

The American Future Fund is one of dozens of third-party groups running advertisements this election cycle and has pumped nearly $6 million into House races. Braley has criticized Lange for benefiting from the group’s advertising.

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Quick hits:

– Failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel shelled out more than $100,000 to fly former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her family to Atlanta for a last-minute push in her runoff with Nathan Deal. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Handel detailed on campaign finance reports $92,000 to charter a plane and spent another $13,000 at a hotel for the event.

– The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is endorsing Meg Whitman for California governor, saying the financially troubled state needs the former eBay CEO’s experience to create jobs. The group has been active in California politics this year, having spent more than $2 million in ads backing Senate candidate Fiorina in her effort against Boxer.

– Democrat Robin Carnahan’s campaign for Senate in Missouri says GOP rival Roy Blunt is “often downright boring” but “far more dangerous than candidates like Christine O’Donnell,” the tea party-backed candidate in Delaware. In a fundraising pitch that mocks O’Donnell’s campaign commercial, Carnahan’s campaign includes a picture of Blunt with a sign also declaring “I am not a witch.”

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Associated Press writers Travis Reed in Miami and Henry C. Jackson and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.

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