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Thursday, May 03, 2007
The dreaded "B" word

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The B-word, Bush, was rarely uttered by the 10 Republican candidates at tonight's GOP debate held in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Former

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was mentioned as was his father President George Bush. But it appeared as though the candidates sought to limit the number of references to the current president.

By CNN's count, there were just four specific mentions of President George W. Bush by the candidates. However, they couldn't entirely dodge direct questions about the current commander in chief or his handling of the Iraq war.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, flatly charged the war has been "terribly mismanaged," even though he is a leading supporter of the president's troop buildup plan in Iraq.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was asked how he would grade the Bush administration's handling of the war, from A through F. Huckabee insisted he couldn't grade Bush until we see how the war turns out.

Asked how he would differ from President Bush, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said each candidate is his own person. But Romney went on to offer some rare and direct praise of Bush by hailing his passion, character and love of country.

-- CNN Senior Writer Jennifer Mikell

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