HOUSTON -- George W. Bush is as hard to find in his father's office as he is in the 2012 presidential contest.
The 43rd president appears in a gold-framed picture tucked into a far corner of the room, partly hidden by a Texas flag and a cabinet door.
The younger Bush was an afterthought Thursday as his father, former President George H.W. Bush, met with current GOP front-runner Mitt Romney -- until a reporter raised the issue.
"I haven't met with President George W. Bush. We speak from time to time," Romney said when asked whether he had sought the younger Bush's endorsement.
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Reporters were forced from the room before they could ask more questions about Romney's connection to the Republican president who left office three years ago with the nation on the brink of financial ruin.
George W. Bush has been ignored for months in the Republican presidential campaign. But his absence has been more pronounced in recent days as Romney trumpeted endorsements from the former president's father and younger brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and spent two days courting donors in Texas.
George W. Bush, who lives in Dallas, did not attend any of Romney's half-dozen Texas fundraisers. He also isn't expected to follow his family's migration to Romney's camp anytime soon.
Political strategists say Republicans would be best served by not reminding voters of the Bush legacy of gaping budget deficits, two wars and record-low approval ratings.
"George W. Bush is still too fresh in the minds of voters," said Republican operative Michael Dennehy, a top staffer for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential bid.
George W. Bush's spokesman, Freddy Ford, said Bush is focused on promoting and developing his presidential library at Southern Methodist University.