I have a problem with one of the premises in this post, though. Lemme explain.
Not that conservatives haven't mastered the art of cognitive dissonance, I have a hard time believing that the GOP will simultaneously try to rescue the legacy of George W Bush and throw him under the bus in order to save conservativism. Here's how I see it playing out.
We all know that the GOP is a coalition but one that is exceptionally hierarchical. They have an amazing capacity to maintain a unified message. My guess is that they will, initially, try to burnish the Bush legacy. But they probably will, and probably have already decided that it's futile save Bush. His reputation is already too far down the toilet, and it's only going to get worse as the economy slips further into recession, especially as job losses increase, as foreclosures skyrocket, as home prices crash, as gas prices soar, as the dollar weakens, etc, etc. He's toast, and they know it.
I think they've already started to cut him loose from the conservative movement. They know the tides are running against the GOP this year, and that McCain will probably lose by a lot. If McCain goes down in flames, expect them to hitch Bush to him as an anchor. "They" will have betrayed conservatism, and that's why "they" lost.
I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for examples of the GOP playing the "Bush betrayed us" card. My guess is that it's their only hope. There's no way Bush is going to end up with approval ratings higher that 50%, and I'd be shocked if they end up anywhere close to 40%. There's just no way they're turning the economy around in time, and that is the one issue that truly affects everybody. Look for updates on my blog.
Still, any effort to hitch Bush to the conservative movement is absolutely worthwhile. He's their albatross, and they will do their best to hide him from the public. It's our job to make sure the facts of the last eight years aren't erased from the national record. And the fact is that Bush is perfect exemplar of modern American conservatism.