Obama’s 2012 Opponent ? George W. Bush

The Obama Administration seems to be saying that "Blame Bush" will be at the core of their re-election strategy. Good idea ? Not really.

The 2012 elections are still two years away, but already the White House is telegraphing their re-election strategy, and it involves campaigning against George Bush regardless of who the Republicans nominate:

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs didn’t talk about Sarah Palin specifically yesterday, but he did address any Republican who is thinking about challenging President Obama in 2012.

The bottom line: Regardless of who the Republicans nominate, the White House is likely to run against the previous GOP president, George W. Bush.

Both the congressional campaign this year and the 2012 presidential race will feature talk “about the direction that this country is going to go,” Gibbs said.

“You’re going to get an opportunity to think about whether we’re going to go back to what we came from or that we’re going to go forward,” Gibbs said. “And that’s a debate I think the President and many here are anxious to have.”

Gibbs spoke after declining to comment specifically on Palin’s new “Mama Grizzlies” ad, which, along with the $1 million-plus raised by her political action committee, has rekindled talked of a Palin-for-President campaign.

This isn’t all that surprising a strategy, of course. When Ronald Reagan was running for re-election in 1984, one of his primary campaign themes involved reminding voters where the nation was just four years previously, as in this commercial.

So, running against your predecessor isn’t necessarily a bad strategy, or a dumb idea. However, when Reagan did it in 1984, they were able to point to the fact that things actually were better than they had been under the previous Administration. Absent a real economic turnaround over the next two years, the Obama camp’s continued reliance on the “Blame Bush” strategy is going to ring pretty hollow with most voters and, as today’s poll numbers indicate quite clearly, the public has moved away from the idea that Obama deserves a break because of the condition the country was in when he took office.

It’s his mess now and, if he doesn’t fix it a campaign built around saying “but the other guy was worse” isn’t going to go very far.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. c.red says:

    Well it works for me. The Republican message, so far, seems to be: “the Bush years weren’t so bad, let’s replay them”, I think Gibbs’s works pretty well. If Palin gets the nod the message might as well be: “the Bush years weren’t so bad, let’s replay them with someone less competent than Bush”, so I think it works really well then.

    But then I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m one of those wacky liberals that believes the Republicans sank the economy the first place and now all I see is them torpedoing everything they can out of spite rather than show any shred of integrity or common sense, so I’m not very sympathetic…

  2. Dantheman says:

    “However, when Reagan did it in 1984, they were able to point to the fact that things actually were better than they had been under the previous Administration”

    And if Reagan had tried to run under this message in July 1982, he would have not have been able to point to an improvement in the economy. It was only after the economy started to recover (following several rounds of tax increases and additional government spending) that there was economic growth that he could take credit for. Timing is everything…

  3. Gerry W. says:

    It is coming to the point where Obama has to deliver or shut up. Obama could have been more articulate on goals for jobs and reducing the deficit, something for people to hang on to. Having said that, Bush put us into one hell of a mess.

  4. Herb says:

    It depends…

    I think the Republicans hoping to cruise to victory based on anti-Obama sentiment will find out the same thing the Democrats did in 04. It ain’t that easy.

    Obama seems to be betting that Republicans A) don’t have anything else besides “Vote for me! I’m not Obama” or B) The GOP circa 2012 will have plenty of ideas; only they’re indistinguishable from Bush-era ones.

    It’s a foolish strategy only if you think the GOP’s going to spend the next two years undergoing some kind of ideological metamorphoses. I think an economic recovery is more likely….

  5. john personna says:

    Unfortunately, it is necessary.

    If you don’t go to Bush, you have no push-back on the “Obama’s economy” crud.

    (“crud” was my dad’s polite substitution)

  6. c.red says:

    Gerry W. – This isn’t really the right forum for this, but I’m sympathetic to your desire, (hell, NEED) for new jobs and I want them too, I have lots of family struggling, but I really believe that you’re expectations of what Obama can do in this area is too high.

    There are so many local issues (start up red tape, healthcare costs, patent laws that discouage competition, liability laws, concentration of capitol with people/companies that have no incentive to take risks) that need to be straightened out before we can even hope to have a favorable job market environment again.

    That doesn’t even include factors that can’t be controlled at all, such as improvements in transport and communications technology, the rise of third world countries, etc.

    We have spent at least thirty years getting into this economy and it is going to take more than awhile to get back out, IF our politicians our even willing to try. Obama was never a radical pull down the system kind of politician… he is making changes on the margins – shifting health costs away from employers to make them competitive, tax breaks to smaller business/start-ups, (hopefully) getting capitol back into the hands of the middle class that have incentives to take risks an start new businessess, etc. I believe those are good baby steps…

    I would love to get back to the days when a town had thirty small stores employing ten employees each, rather than one Walmart with just a hundred underpaid employees, but we are a long way from there.

    So here are your choices, Obama and the Democrats that are at least nudging us in the right direction or Republicans in Congress, that prove every day in word and deed that they only favor the richest Americans and nothing else is important.

  7. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    What a good plan. While Obama is running against Bush, he will not be responding to the charges leveled at him by his Republican opponent. If I were going to run against a former President, I woiuld run against Nixon. First off, he is dead so he cannot respond to any allegations I would make against him. Second, it has been a long time since he has been in office and most people do not remember what actually happened but just what they read about. The old adage still rings true. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

  8. reid says:

    It’s misleading to say Obama’s going to run against Bush. He’s going to run against the Republican policies from the Bush era, which were obviously a big factor in putting us into our current toilet state. Have those policies changed much? Why wouldn’t he point out what got us where we are? And really, things are still bad, but at least the economic slope’s improved and we’ve gone positive in areas.

    People are dwelling on/crowing about the President’s poor poll numbers today, but the Republicans fare even worse. It gives me hope that people can remember more than six months ago.

  9. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    C.Red. Does that first C stand for Communist? If so, then the Red would be unnecessary. You think increasing the cost of business is helping. What part of socialization do you think helps with jobs? Democrats, since they were taken over by the radical left have been anti business anti American in their policies. C.Red, ask the people on the Gulf Coast how much the Democrats have helped with job creation. I have read some pretty stupid sh*t here but I think if you believe Obamacare, cap and tax, card check and the drilling moratorium a nudges in the right direction. You win the prize for the dumbest post I have read in a very long time. Thank God most of America feels the same way. CRed. I can see November from my front yard and it looks Republican.

  10. c.red says:

    Actually re-reading my posts it is probable that I am a little stressed out and trolling a bit, I apologize to the forum at large for some of the phrasing.

    However, I strongly stand behind the sentiment.

    ZRIII – you found me out, I guess I’ll have to turn in my commie decoder ring and babushka.

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    When you’re out of ideas I guess blaming others makes sense. I’m more curious who the Republican nominee will be and what ideas they bring to the table. Hopefully it’s starts with getting government out of the way of business.

  12. john personna says:

    Hopefully it’s starts with getting government out of the way of business.

    Do you think they really want to turn off the Primary Dealer Credit Facility?


    Poor oppressed businesses, with fire-hoses of money pointed right at them.

  13. Herb says:

    Don’t beat yourself up, C. Red. Zelsdorf is going to call you a communist no matter what. That’s just the type of dude he is.

    “Hopefully it’s starts with getting government out of the way of business.”

    Oh lawdy…not this again. I know bashing the government is “in” these days, but jeez, man….some principles maybe?

    Like personal responsibility. If someone’s business is failing, maybe the government really is getting in their way. Or maybe they’re just not very good at business…..

  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    Duh! Of course it will be to some extent. The Republicans ran the bus off the road and Obama is going to say he got it back on the road. How exactly is this different from Ronald Reagan’s “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” What I find most hilarious here is the “pro business” conservatives like raghead or whatever his name is who seem blissfully unaware that the Republiicans just created the most serious recession since the thirties. Apart from a tiny sliver of people mainly in the financial industry the period 2001-2008 was awful from a business point of view ending as it did in a near collapse of the financial industry, a real estate catastrophe and seven quarters of contraction. If this is the definition of success I’d hate to hear the raghead’s definition of failure.

  15. sam says:

    “Hopefully it’s starts with getting government out of the way of business.”

    Do you want it to stay out of the way of a business who does this? Diabetes Drug Maker Hid Test Data on Risks, Files Indicate

  16. sam says:

    Hmmm. That’s a NY Times article, and if you try to pull it up and get the registration page (and you’re not registered), just plug this “Diabetes Drug Maker Hid Test Data on Risks, Files Indicate” into google.

  17. Steve Plunk says:

    Yeah, a few bad businesses is justification for government to penalize all businesses with onerous taxes and regulations. Of course I could come up with stories about bad government as well to justify cuts in budgets. The point is business creates the wealth that a parasitic government feeds off of. Too much parasite to host kills the host. We’ve got too much parasite.

    In the history of mankind it has been business, the entrepreneur, capitalism, and self interest that has advanced the standard of living and saved lives. It has been government through wars and suppression of it’s own citizens that has killed millions. Bad mouth business all you want but the real evil is the conceit of men through government.

  18. Brummagem Joe says:

    Steve Plunk says:

    “Bad mouth business all you want but the real evil is the conceit of men through government.”

    I wonder what world you live in. Govt IS a major source of business revenue.

  19. Herb says:

    “In the history of mankind it has been business, the entrepreneur, capitalism, and self interest that has advanced the standard of living and saved lives.”

    Yes, this is true. But you forgot about the part where our government supports the entrepreneurial-capitalist model better than any government in the world.

  20. john personna says:

    Steve, I get “taxes is bad” but I also get “somebody’s got to pay for it.”

    I would really love lower, simpler, taxes. Really. The thing is, I value a solvent government even more highly. Heh. I suppose that could be emotion on my part. I am emotionally attracted to balanced budgets. Thus I have no tolerance for people who spend without taxes, or seek to reduce tax while maintaining spending.

    I’m really tired of the Grover Nordquist wing with their “I don’t care, as long as taxes are cut” mantra. It is insane. Literally.

  21. john personna says:

    (But it is even worse now, as government dispenses _favors_ wall to wall, and then people claim it’s mean to business. You mean like corporate agriculture? Corporate medicine? Corporate energy? Banks? Automakers? Housing?)

  22. tom p says:

    ***When you’re out of ideas I guess blaming others makes sense. ****

    Steve P: Name me a GOP idea that isn’t a tax cut… just one… please… Oh, did I mention a lack of regulation (gettiing gov’t “out of the way of bussiness”)? That does not count either.

    Sorry Steve, but your argument seems to be: “It took Bush 8 years to f8ck things up this bad… Why can’t Obama fix it in less than 2? We (the gop) know how it is f8cked up (after all we did it) we can fix it…NOW!”

    Sorry, no sale. Even I am not that stupid.

  23. LCB says:

    This thread is hilarious. “It’s the Democrat’s fault!” “It’s the Republican’s fault!” Fact is, since I’ve been old enough to vote (and thus pay attention), the party in charge has been spending like drunken…well, drunken POLITICANS. Our national government bureaucracy as a whole is the issue as it is a leach upon our economy. Sadly, I’m afraid it is a self-perpetuating beast that won’t stop growing (and over-spending) until we actually do have an economic melt-down.

  24. Keith says:

    The last time a Republican President caused a Great Depression, Democrats were able to successfully run against the specter of Herbert Hoover for decades. It will be the same with Bush. Democrats would be stupid NOT to run against him, considering how he has destroyed our nation. Mark my words, Democrats will still be (successfully) running against Bush 20 and 30 years from now, do destructive was the Bush presidency.