Matt Lewis

Underplayed story: Romney criticizes Bush for ‘outrageous’ deficits

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

While much of this morning’s coverage is obsessed with last night’s debate moderator, there were other interesting developments. One such moment came when a questioner asked Mitt Romney how he would be different from George W. Bush.

Romney initially softened his response by noting they “are different people and these are different times,” but eventually got around to drawing a sharper distinction. He talked about domestic energy and being harder on China, and then said this:

I’m going to get us to a balanced budget. President Bush didn’t. President Obama was right, he said that that was outrageous to have deficits as high as half a trillion dollars under the Bush years. He was right, but then he put in place deficits twice that size for every one of his four years. And his forecast for the next four years is more deficits, almost that large. So that’s the next area I’m different than President Bush.

President Obama then seized on the comparison, noting that,”George Bush didn’t propose turning Medicare into a voucher…He didn’t call for self-deportation …George Bush never suggested that we eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood…”

This comes on the heels of news that Bush is still “skeptical” of Romney’s chances. (For some astute observers, Romney’s distancing himself from Bush wasn’t a surprise.)

Frankly, I’m a bit surprised Romney didn’t do this sooner. For years, Obama succeeded by essentially running against Bush. An obvious move for Romney might have been to triangulate — to position himself as the answer to the failed tenures of both predecessors.

There are a lot of reasons why Romney couldn’t do this sooner, not the least of which is fear of retribution. It will be interesting to see how the famously protective Bush Clan responds to this. During the Republican debate this August, brother Jeb Bush took to the stage to insist that Obama stop blaming his brother.

Will Jeb or “Poppy” have any cross words for Mitt? — or will they be good soldiers?