After cheering on George W. Bush for 8 years, then spending the next 4 polishing his legacy, the clowns at the National Review are finally realizing that he was a big, freaking disaster for the Republican Party.
What Romney has not done is address the major problem he has in making the case: the shadow of the George W. Bush years. Americans are more likely to blame Bush for the financial crisis that started on his watch than to blame Obama for the slow recovery from it. And even before the financial crisis, the last period of Republican governance was not especially good for America’s middle class. Wages were flat for people in the middle of the income spectrum even when the economy was growing.
The Romney campaign acknowledges that the crisis began before Obama took office, but it has next to nothing to say about what Bush-era Republicans got wrong. The result is that Romney appears to be saying that everything was going swimmingly until Obama came along. That impression lends credence to Obama’s attempt to portray Romney as running for Bush’s third term. Romney’s silence about the errors of the Bush years is, on the other hand, understandable, since many Republicans continue to hold Bush in high esteem as a good man who tried to do a lot of good things. Since most Americans consider Bush a failure, Romney cannot embrace him either. So Bush has been an awkward non-presence in the campaign: the man who was not there.
In other words, Bush was a failure and therefore is hugely unpopular with the voters -- but Romney can't explicitly say so because Republicans still like him.
What the National Review editors can't quite bring themselves to say is that the real reason Romney can't repudiate Bush is because he's endorsing exactly the same policies as Bush: tax cuts for the rich and corporations and deregulation. Which is also why George W. Bush was never mentioned at the Republican convention.
Romney and the GOP have been trying to pretend for the past 3.5 years that the Bush presidency never happened, and the 2010 midterms gave them the false sense that this gambit would work. But unfortunately for them, everyone else still remembers Bush and the GOP-dominated Congress and the huge mess they left Obama to clean up.