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Don't look for Bush in Tampa

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In mid-May, former President George W. Bush expressed his support for Mitt Romney's candidacy, delivering a four-word endorsement -- "I'm for Mitt Romney" -- as elevator doors were closing. Romney wasn't eager to publicize the support, and generally prefers not to even say Bush's name out loud in public.

But looking ahead, we're just a month away from the Republican National Convention, where party activists generally celebrate the leaders of their party. Perhaps we'll see a passing of the torch from the last GOP president to the man who may be the next one? Um, no.

Former President George W. Bush will be skipping the Republican National Convention this summer, his office said Friday, continuing the relative seclusion -- and self-imposed remove -- from presidential politics that he has kept since leaving office.

A spokesman for Mr. Bush, Freddy Ford, indicated in a statement on Friday that Mr. Bush had been invited but declined to attend the convention, which starts in late August in Tampa. "President Bush was grateful for the invitation to the Republican National Convention; he supports Governor Romney and wants him to succeed," he said. "But in keeping with his desire to stay off the political stage at this point in the post-presidency, he respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa."

The announcement was made late on Friday afternoon, when most the nation's focus was on developments in Aurora. What a coincidence.

It's worth noting how very unusual this is, at least by modern standards. Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, H.W. Bush, and Clinton all attended their party's first convention after leaving office. Indeed, all were very well received by their respective party's crowds.

And yet, Bush won't be in Tampa. It's almost as if Team Romney is afraid to be seen with the guy -- which I suppose makes sense, given how spectacularly he failed while in office.

For what it's worth, the most recent Republican president may not be headed to his party's convention, but it's wrong to say his presence won't be felt. After all, Romney has already hired a team largely comprised of Bush administration officials; the RNC recently conceded that a Romney presidency would be the same as Bush's presidency "just updated"; and Romney has been eager to cozy up to Dick Cheney, whom Romney sees as a model vice president.