Too bad for John McCain, of course. Still he'll try:
When President Bush ventured here for a private fundraiser with John McCain on Tuesday night, his first real campaign appearance with the presumptive GOP nominee, the event was closed to the news media and their only joint public appearance was a photo op on the airport tarmac that lasted less than a minute.Democrats are not big on the "re-branding stuff," in other words, and so will have much work to do to make John McCain seem like the second coming of Dumbya.
The same ground rules will cover Bush's trip to Utah on Wednesday, where he will appear with former presidential candidate Mitt Romney to woo big-money Republican donors to McCain's cause.
The fleeting public appearances of an unpopular president on behalf of the potential heir to the leadership of the Republican Party underscore the delicate balance for McCain, who is trying to appeal to a restless GOP base that continues to embrace the president while reaching out to moderates and independents who want to move beyond the Bush administration. For now, the senator from Arizona remains locked in a tight race for the White House -- evidence that Americans see him as a brand apart from the GOP.
Bush has one and only one major asset to lend the GOP and John McCain: his Rolodex. Here is a man who last night raised $3 million for the campaign. That's staggering when you realize that Obama has to work hard to pull in a million a day. Too, campaign finance rules have been loosened a little in that the party can now spend more money touting the Presidential candidate than ever before.
Despite the tumbling poll numbers for Bush and the Republicans in general, John McCain remains competitive against either of the Democratic candidates, with Clinton holding a slightly better advantage overall. Bush and his party hover somewhere in the low 30s. McCain consistently pulls in the mid-40s.
That's a testament to two things: First, his ability to appear on programs like The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live and not look lost in the camera, and second, his maverick image still sticks around, despite this photo:
Staggeringly, Obama is running a full ten points behind the Democratic Party in terms of his poll numbers. This is likely a testament to the fact that his candidacy represents a distinct disconnect between the kind of candidate the Democrats have actively sought over the past two elections cycles and Obama's more liberal policies and voting records (as well as the personal predicaments he has put himself in).
In short, it's going to take Obama a lot of effort to define himself for the general election, precious resources that could be used to combat McCain's image, and define McCain ahead of his campaign. It's clear that his image and Bush's image are not the same. That's going to be a very tough sell.