The star of the new "Ask George Bush Show" parts his hair differently than the old George Bush. He looks more rested; the taut lines are gone from his forehead, as are the black shadows under his eyes.
The star has a far more impressive stage presence than the old George Bush, who impressed viewers with his blandness in a series of TV debates. Music from the movie "Star Wars" is played when he walks to the podium.
The star also isn't afraid to talk about issues, or say a few bad words about Ronald Reagan -- something the old George Bush would never dare do.
But the star still isn't the "American Eagle" his media expert would like the public to believe he is.
The second in a series of five "Ask George Bush" shows was broadcast Monday night from the Valley Forge Music Hall. It was a slick, 30-minute television extravaganza. The campaign put great stock in the event. Bush is trailing Reagan in the April 22 Pennsylvania Republican primary polls. And the TV shows are the centerpiece of a Bush media campaign.
A statewide poll taken for station KYW-TV showed Reagan with 43 percent, Bush with 27 percent and 30 percent undecided. On March 30, Reagan had 53 percent, Bush 27 percent and 18 percent were undecided.
"These [shows] are damn important for us," said press secretary Peter Teeley. "They give George Bush an opportunity to demonstrate on his feet two things: his experience and knowledge. This is opposed to Reagan, who has no experience, or, according to recent news stories, who has a lack of information."
Bush handled himself well during the show. His answers were crisp and to the point. He appeared informed and professional.
But the impact was that of a solid single when a home run was needed.
That's the basic problem of the Bush campaign here. It is well-financed and staffed. The playing field -- an eastern state with a tradition of moderate Republicanism -- would seem to be ideally suited to it. And the opposition star, Ronald Reagan, is making errors all over the place.
The Bush campaign needs home runs from its candidate, but he is a former Yale first baseman who never hit better than .245.
Bush has been anxious for a head-to-head contest with Regan, but Monday night, on the show broadcast on three network affiliates in the Philadelphia area, he mentioned Reagan only twice.
Once was a throwaway line. The other time he scored cleanly. Asked what was the single greatest difference between him and Reagan, Bush replied:
After a long pause, he added: "Experience in foreign affairs, which would lead me to have a strong foreign policy, not a reckless one. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Gov. Reagan said he would blockade Cuba, but it wasn't the Cubans who invaded Afghanistan, it was the Russians. We don't need any more reckless statements like that."
Bush gave a more detailed speech titled "The Bush Difference" at Pennsylvania State University today, outlining his disagreements with Reagan.
Bush called the Kemp-Roth tax cut bill, which Regan supports, a false "blueprint for paradise. Unfortunately, charting such an economic course would increase inflation to 30 percent in 1981 and 1982 and as a result could increase the levels of unemployment to those seen only during the Great Depression," and he urged Reagan to "lay out your economic plan."
He said Reagan's foreign policy statements have been series of "inaccuracies and inconsistencies."
He also raised questions about Reagan's experience and age.
The Pennsylvania primary is crucial for Bush.Reagan has won 10 of the 13 primaries to date. And Bush desperately needs to win here to keep his candidacy alive.
Bush, however, is an optimist by nature. This morning he was shaking hands at a senior citizens center in Johnstown, Pa., when he heard a group of elderly people singing around an organ. He moved toward them, his slightly off-key voice eagerly joining the singers.
The name of the song was "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover."