WASHINGTON - Former President George W. Bush will not attend the Republican convention next month, his office said on Friday, skipping Mitt Romney's expected coronation as the party's White House nominee.

Bush supports Romney and believes he would be a great president, "but he's still enjoying his time off the political stage and respectfully declined the invitation to go to Tampa," spokesman Freddy Ford said in an email first reported by Politico.

Bush has largely stayed out of politics and the public eye since leaving the White House in 2009 amid an economic crisis, an unpopular war in Iraq and growing budget deficits.

His spending and immigration policies made him unpopular with some conservative party activists, and his economic leadership was criticized by some Republican presidential contenders during the party's nominating fight.

Bush did not physically attend the Republican convention that nominated John McCain for the presidency four years ago, addressing the gathering via video feed.

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