Former President George W. Bush weighed in on Mitt Romney’s vice presidential pick today, praising House Budget Chair Paul Ryan as the right choice for the GOP ticket.
“This is a strong pick,” Bush said in a statement circulated by the Romney campaign. “Governor Romney is serious about confronting the long-term challenges facing America, and Paul Ryan will help him solve the difficult issues that must be addressed for future generations.”
It is a rare public endorsement from Bush 43, who has avoided the spotlight since leaving office and stayed out of the fray in the 2012 election cycle. The statement is also one of the first formal acknowledgments of Bush by the Romney campaign, which has largely avoided association with the former president, who remains unpopular with liberal and conservative voters.
Bush has actually been on the Ryan bandwagon for quite a while — a fact that Democrats are likely to jump on as they try to tie Romney to the former president’s economic policies. No. 43 even asked Ryan to be his budget director, a position that was filled by Rob Portman, another V.P. shortlister, after Ryan declined.
Bush’s praise today— and the Romney campaign’s willingness to tout it — underscores the party unity that the Ryan pick brings to the Republican ticket. The Tea Party wave, and this year’s vitriolic Republican primary have left the GOP deeply divided. Ryan is the rare candidate who can bring together the Establishment and anti-Washington elements of the party back together.
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