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Is Bush making a comeback? Why two Democrats mention him uncritically.

Former President Bush appears invisible to the Romney campaign and others in the GOP, but two Democratic Senate candidates, from Virginia and Arizona, show him in ads touting their bipartisanship.

By Staff writer / September 25, 2012

In this June 16 file photo, former President George W. Bush smiles as he takes in a baseball game in Arlington, Texas.

LM Otero/AP/File

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Washington

Don’t look now, but President George W. Bush is making a comeback of sorts – in the service of two Democratic candidates for the Senate who are emphasizing bipartisanship.

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There is the affable Dubya smiling with former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) in a recent TV advertisement in Mr. Kaine’s race against another former Commonwealth governor, Republican George Allen.

“I don’t agree with any president all the time, but I know that when our nation succeeds, Virginia succeeds,” Kaine says in the ad, called “Partner,” that the campaign released last week.

“As governor, I worked with the Bush administration to build Rail-To-Dulles,” Kaine says of a long-awaited public transit line to the busy northern Virginia airport as a picture of Mr. Bush and Kaine flashes on screen.

Then, moving to an image of Kaine and the current president, he continues, “and with the Obama administration to stop an aircraft carrier from moving out of Virginia.”

Richard Carmona, the Democratic challenger for an open Senate seat in Arizona, has not one but two pictures with the second President Bush on his “Republicans for Carmona” Web page. Therein, Mr. Carmona touts being nominated for his tenure as US surgeon general by Bush back in 2002. (He was confirmed unanimously by the Senate.)

Carmona, like Kaine, isn’t afraid to deviate from the party line – in one spot, Carmona says both parties have helped foul up the nation’s health-care system.

Both candidates are casting the 43rd president for clear reasons. In Virginia, Kaine has repeatedly contrasted his pragmatic approach with what he sees as the more bruising style of his opponent, Mr. Allen.

In Arizona, Carmona is fighting an uphill battle against the state’s GOP tilt and a savvy opponent in Rep. Jeff Flake and will likely need more than a few voters who vote for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to also cast their lots with him.

What is striking, however, is that the 43rd president of the United States is invisible to Mr. Romney’s presidential run, nor does he get a whiff of a mention in campaign ads for incumbent Republicans scrambling to distance themselves from a toxic Washington.

When Bush does show up in ads in those races, it’s usually for Democrats, but for reasons very much at odds with those of Kaine and Carmona. Instead of stressing bipartisanship, the ads trash Republicans for unpopular wars or the “failed policies of the past.”

The presidencies of both Bush presidents (41 and 43) were all but absent from the Republican National Convention, too, save for a video montage shown well out of prime time.

By drafting Bush 43 into their political service, both Carmona and Kaine are trying to back up a sentiment Kaine articulates clearly at the end of his ad: “I approve this message because Washington needs more partners and fewer partisans.”

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