Romney's brought on a cadre of Bush officials to serve as his senior policy advisers, lead his presidential transition effort and help him raise millions to fuel his run — the pillars of his campaign and a potential administration.
"Really, no coach wants to send a team on the field with all rookies," said veteran Republican fundraiser and strategist Fred Malek, who believes it's important for Romney to distinguish himself from his predecessor. "And the best thing to have is a combination of people with great experience and a track record so long as the energy and new ideas that come from new people that have not yet come from deeply in the government. I think that's really what Romney is looking to do and how the team shapes up to me."
On foreign policy, where Romney clearly distinguished himself from Bush on Monday night, 17 of Romney's 24 special advisers and the vast majority of his issue co-chairs worked in the Bush administration. Some of them are big names, like former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and State Department vet Paula Dobriansky.
His transition team, which would staff up a potential administration, is run by Bush alum Michael Leavitt, former Health and Human Services secretary; Josh Bolton, Bush's chief of staff; Robert Zoellick, former World Bank president; and Emil Henry, who worked in Bush's Treasury Department, have also been in on the planning.
When it comes to raising money, Bush stalwarts are on board, including political operative Karl Rove, who has delivered personal briefings and fundraising appeals for the main super PAC supporting Romney.
Bush-era stars like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Vice President Dick Cheney have headlined fundraisers and attended mega-donor strategy sessions.
For its part, the Romney campaign says that he makes his own political calculations.
"Mitt Romney has assembled a diverse group of highly respected policy thinkers," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul in an email. "He fields their opinions, evaluates them and ultimately makes his own decisions on policy."
But, that hasn't stopped President Barack Obama from trying hard to link Romney as having old, misguided thinking from the Bush era. At the debate in Boca Raton, Fla., Obama closed the evening by saying that Romney "wants to take us back to those policies, a foreign policy that's wrong and reckless."
Democrats believe linking Romney with Bush can be effective on the campaign trail.
"There is still a holdover that George Bush unnecessarily got us into war and then prolonged it, and that foreign policy combined with a really weak domestic policy sort of created the hole that we're in," said Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.
Further, Rosen said that branding Romney with Bush is effective because he has "projected an old-fashioned view of the Soviet Union, of women, of education, of energy, and I think that continuing to tie him to sort of what are icons of the past helps Obama on his being a leader for the future."