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Why George W. Bush is skipping the GOP convention: 3 theories

The former president, in a curious departure from tradition, will be absent when Republicans gather in Tampa next month to nominate Mitt Romney as their candidate

Former president George W. Bush is going to skip the Republican Party's presidential nominating convention for the second time in a row. In 2008, Bush cited his responsibilities leading the response to Hurricane Gustav and became the first president in a generation to miss his party's convention, appearing only via remote video feed. And he's reportedly opting out of this August's 2012 gathering because he doesn't want to jump into the political fray. "President Bush is confident that Mitt Romney will be a great President," says Bush spokesman Freddy Ford. "But he's still enjoying his time off the political stage." But is there more to it than that? Here, three theories:

1. Bush is doing Romney a favor
"Bush's preemptive move spares Romney [from] having to face the delicate question of whether to have the polarizing former president address the convention," says Jonathan Martin at Politico. It's customary for former presidents to show up at their parties' national gatherings. Usually, they take the stage to speak, cheerleading their successors and passing the torch of party leadership they carried while in office. If Bush had attended, "President Obama's campaign surely would have used the opportunity to link Romney to the Bush administration." Even the timing of Bush's announcement seemed calculated to minimize its impact on Romney's campaign, notes Steve Benen at The Maddow Blog. It came on Friday afternoon "when most of the nation's focus was on developments in Aurora. What a coincidence."

2. Bush is giving Jeb a chance to shine
Sure, Dubya won't be there, says Adam C. Smith in the Tampa, Fla., Times. Nor will his father and fellow former president George H.W. Bush, who is 88 and has been using a wheelchair recently. But the GOP's most prominent political family will still make its presence felt. Dubya's brother, former Florida governor "Jeb Bush will be there, and you can be sure plenty of Florida delegates will be wishing he were the one accepting the nomination." Jeb's son, George P. Bush, 36, who co-chairs a political action committee for young conservatives, will also attend.

3. There's no hidden agenda: Bush is just tired of politics
Bush's decision is unsurprising, says Jim Rutenberg at The New York Times. He's merely continuing a "self-imposed remove" he has observed since he left the White House. "Bush has endorsed Mr. Romney, but with little ceremony," merely telling journalists, "I'm for Mitt Romney," as he stepped into an elevator. Bush and Romney have spoken since then, "but it has become clear that Bush will not be campaigning for Romney in any big way." Bush said in an interview posted online by the Hoover Institution last week that he has had his fill of politics. "I crawled out of the swamp, and I'm not crawling back in," he said. Clearly, he meant it.

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