As they brace for difficult fall elections, dispirited Democrats hoping to get back some of that 2008 magic are turning to the president for inspiration.
President Bush, that is.
Grainy images of the former president flashed across the screen in a recent ad by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) is attacking his GOP rival in a Senate race for his "advancement of the Bush agenda."
Even President Obama has begun taking direct shots at his predecessor, something he had been careful to avoid in recent months.
"They don't have a single idea that's different from George Bush's ideas -- not one," Obama said during speeches this week at fundraisers in Atlanta and Chicago.
In interviews, mailings and television ads, Democratic candidates are again hauling out the specter of the former president to use as a foil. Nearly two years after he left office and virtually disappeared from public view, Bush -- his image, his policies, his legacy -- are being dragged back into the public arena.
Democrats tried the same approach in 1994. On October 13 of that year, the Post reported:
In a memo to the Democratic congressional leadership Oct. 12, [Stanley] Greenberg says this message "is much more powerful when it includes references to Reaganomics and Reagan's trickle-down policies."
Greenberg tested several phrases among voters -- "trickle down," "Reaganomics" and "Star Wars" -- and the results showed that voters had more negative than positive feelings about those phrases. Among undecided voters, 23 percent expressed "warm" feelings about Reaganomics while 48 percent expressed "cold" feelings. But when "Ronald Reagan" and "the 1980s" were tested, the results were not so good for Democrats. Forty-nine percent of voters surveyed had a "warm" feeling about the '80s compared with 20 percent who had a "cold" feeling.
Not surprisingly then, the Democratic message attempts to link the GOP contract to the most negative images of the Reagan years, using language such as "explode the deficit" and "trickle-down economics." The ad campaign focuses on tax cuts for the wealthy, deep cuts in Medicare, education and veterans benefits, and "billions in defense increases."
One ad features GOP congressional candidates signing the contract on the Capitol steps Sept. 27, with a closeup of House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) as sinister-sounding music plays in the background. Another portrays a similar scene along with footage of senior citizens as an announcer concludes: "The Republican contract is designed to return to the Reagan years... . But why would we go back to that?"