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George W. Bush poll numbers up. Does America miss him yet?

George W. Bush left office with a 23 percent approval rating, but now, as his presidential library is about to open in Dallas, he's back up to 47 percent. But he's got a way to catch Bill Clinton.

By / April 23, 2013

A billboard along Interstate 35, taken on Feb. 9, 2010, in Wyoming, Minn., carries an image of former President George W. Bush and reads "Miss me yet?". The message was purchased by a group of small business owners and people from the Twin Cities area who want to remain anonymous.

Bob Collins/Minnesota Public Radio/AP/File

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Is George W. Bush having a comeback? It looks like that might be the case, depending on how “comeback” is defined. With his presidential library set to open on Thursday, W. is scoring his highest poll numbers since 2005, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. Forty-seven percent of respondents in the survey say they now approve of how President Bush performed during his eight years in office.

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Gee, that’s not much different than President Obama’s current score, is it? Over the last three months the nation’s current chief executive has averaged a 49.7 percent approval rating. Just saying.

OK, Bush’s polls are still underwater, in the sense that more people – 50 percent of respondents, in the Post/ABC survey – disapprove of his performance than give it thumbs up. And for W., “highest poll numbers since 2005” is not a high bar, given that his approval rating began to plummet about then and bottomed out at only 23 percent about the time he left office.

Plus ex-presidents typically see a gradual but steady rise in their popularity after leaving office. Their failures fade, their successes seem hard-won in retrospect, and they’re not engendering any more controversy. Famously, Jimmy Carter rates much higher in the public esteem today than he did in 1980. Bill Clinton? The Big Dog remains the nation’s most popular living former Oval Office occupant, according to a Pew Research matchup.

But, at the least, the ex-president from Texas who’s a new grandfather and Painter of Dogs ™ in his spare time seems to be having a moment. His partisans have taken to the media to defend him this week prior to the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

On her “Right Turn” Washington Post blog, Jennifer Rubin holds that “many of [Bush’s] supposed failures are mild compared to the current president."

Bush rallied the country after 9/11, mostly presided over an era of prosperity, and launched the “fiscally sober” Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, according to Ms. Rubin.

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