Bush staffers’ run for election likely to test W’s legacy

At least eight former staffers who worked for George W. Bush’s administration are running for office.

Even though President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney left the White House with poor approval ratings, aides who cut their teeth in their administration say the experience was invaluable. Still, it is also likely to hamper their electoral bids.

Ethan Hastert, who is running for Rep. Bill FosterGeorge (Bill) William FosterRepublicans seek vindication amid reemergence of Wuhan lab theory Overnight Health Care: White House pushes for independent investigation on COVID-19 origins | Former Trump FDA chief cites growing circumstantial evidence on lab theory | US advises against traveling to Japan ahead of Olympics COVID-19 Wuhan lab theory gets more serious look MORE’s (D-Ill.) seat, said his time in the office of the vice president “confirmed that there are really qualified, dedicated, intelligent people who dedicate themselves to a life of public service. It was a great learning experience, and on balance, anything that lets you take away something positive is going to be better than the absence of the experience.”

Foster now occupies the seat held by former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who is Ethan Hastert’s father.

“Working in the White House under any administration is a privilege, and I had a great experience there,” added Tim Nank, who is running for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Nank worked in the White House on nuclear nonproliferation and counterterrorism issues.

Having the Bush White House on their résumés is both a political positive and a negative for candidates. On one hand, Nank said, it could help him with his right flank and encourage the base to turn out for him. On the other, he is not going out of his way to advertise his work for President Bush.

“President Bush’s popularity rating is obviously very low, and I think the people in my district would probably not look favorably on that,” Nank said, adding, “I haven’t had a lot of people ask me where I worked. They usually ask where I work.”

Polls show most Americans still blame Bush for the poor condition of the economy, instead of pinning the blame on President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama: Voting rights bill must pass before next election The world's most passionate UFO skeptic versus the government Biden plans to host Obama for portrait unveiling that Trump skipped: report MORE. But Bush was an effective fundraiser, pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars for Republican candidates and causes, and some hope to turn their relationships with the former president into campaign cash.

“I’m going to try to cajole [Bush and Cheney] to come out and do an event for me,” said David Castillo, a former deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs who also worked in the Homeland Security and Labor departments. “As we progress, I’m hoping to utilize my Bush-Cheney relationships to the fullest extent I can.”

Castillo, who headed veterans’ coalitions for Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, will need the help. He is taking on Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) in a district that has supported Republican candidates before, but one that gave Baird 64 percent of the vote in 2008.

Even Cheney, who was once beset by approval ratings below 20 percent, could be helpful in raising money, especially because he publicly challenged Obama’s policies on enhanced interrogation techniques and national security.

“I haven’t talked with the former vice president or anyone from his staff, but I would welcome him in” to the district, Ethan Hastert said. “People would be foolish not to listen to what he has to say.”

Ethan Hastert said his father offers advice about the campaign: “He’s keeping back more than taking a front role, but he’s been around the block a couple of times himself, so his advice is invaluable.”

Regardless of whether it would be helpful to one’s campaign, a candidate should embrace his or her past, said Matt Schlapp, a former White House political director who briefly considered a bid for Congress earlier this year in a heavily Republican district in Kansas.

“You should be proud of your views and you should be proud of the people you worked with,” Schlapp said. “To back away from either the people you worked with or the policy objectives you were trying to achieve may have some short-term political benefits, [but] in the long run it’s better to dance with the one who brung you.”

While Schlapp declined to run, he noted that the ranks of former White House political directors include Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). “I guess there’s hope for the future for someone who survives that job,” he said with a laugh.

At least two former Bush appointees will try for a Senate seat next year. Ex-Rep. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' White House digs in as infrastructure talks stall White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure MORE (R-Ohio), who headed Bush’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is the GOP’s likely nominee for retiring Sen. George Voinovich’s (R) seat, and former Ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley (R), who also worked in Iraq with the Coalition Provisional Authority, is running against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.).

Along with Nank, Barbara Comstock, the well-known Republican strategist who served as a spokeswoman at the Justice Department during Bush’s first term, is running for delegate in Virginia.

In Ohio, Andrew Ciafardini, who worked in Intergovernmental Affairs, and Cliff Rosenberger, who worked in Political Affairs, are each running for the state House.

Though the former president remains unpopular with many in his own party — most of whom blame him for the GOP’s moribund state — Bush alumni could even see one of their own back in the White House at some point. Though he has said he will not run for office again, some in Indiana have suggested that Daniels, like Portman a former OMB director, could eventually make a run for president.