(CNSNews.com) - Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush lashed out at reporters Wednesday on the subject of his rumored past illegal drug use.
"Somebody floats a rumor and it causes you to ask a question, and that's the game in American politics, and I refuse to play it," Bush told reporters at a news conference in Austin, Texas, the state capital.
Bush called the rumors "ridiculous" and "absurd," but refused to say whether the use of these terms meant he was denying them.
Bush's refusal to say whether or not he has ever used cocaine sets him apart from his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination. All of his opponents have denied through spokespersons that they ever used cocaine when asked by the New York Daily News earlier this month.
Some say that Bush is giving the press mixed messages by saying on one hand that he won't play the political gotcha game when it comes to the drug question, while readily answering questions about other private matters such as infidelity (denied) or alcohol abuse (admitted).
Those mixed messages, said Republican political strategist Todd Blodgett, have tantalized the news media and at least "lent the appearance" of credibility to the drug use rumors.
"The question will not go away," Blodgett told CNSNews.com. "Sooner or later he will have to answer it. Like Joe Louis said, 'You can run, but you can't hide.'"
Blodgett, who said that he supports Bush's quest for the GOP presidential nomination, said Bush's dilemma is that he must first win the nomination before he can seriously begin his campaign for the presidency.
"To answer the [drug use] question now in the affirmative would alienate the conservative activists in the Republican Party," said Blodgett.
Other political analysts say that even if Bush has used cocaine in the past, it won't damage him politically if he is candid with the voters.
"The American public has shown itself to be very forgiving," said Stephen J. Farnsworth, who teaches political science at Mary Washington College. "However, the news media is pretty aggressive," he added.
"Earlier disclosure is probably better than late disclosure," Farnsworth told CNSNews.com.
Blodgett believes that if the cocaine rumor is true he will probably fess up after he secures the Republican nomination so that he can concentrate on his Democratic rival.
"He cannot evade the question, given that he is willing to answer other [personal] questions," said Blodgett.