The Spectacle Blog

Refuting Compassionate Conservatism’s Electoral Benefits

By on 5.24.12 | 12:10PM

I wrote about TAS alumni Phil Klein's new Mitt Romney ebook on the main site. One point I didn't get to bring up was Phil's rebuttal to a popular big-government conservative argument: that the Medicare prescription drug benefit and No Child Left Behind got George W. Bush reelected, and therefore we have those expansions of government to thank for John Roberts and Sam Alito. (Of course, without conservative pressure we might have ended up with Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers, but be that as it may.)

Phil writes:

Despite the passage of No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription drug bill, Bush actually did worse among voters who considered education and health care their most important issues in his 2004 reelection campaign than he did in his 2000 run. According to CNN exit polls, those voters who identified education as the issue that “mattered most,” favored Al Gore over Bush by a spread of 52 percent to 44 percent. Yet four years later, John Kerry trounced President Bush among voters who thought education was most important, by a margin of 73 percent to 26 percent. Similarly, in 2000, Gore had a 64 percent to 33 percent advantage among health care voters; in 2004 Kerry was favored by a margin of 77 percent to 23 percent. Keep in mind, this was even though Bush’s overall percentage of the popular vote increased in 2004.

It's not even clear that Medicare Part D was the chief reason for Bush's gains among senior citizens. As Phil points out in his ebook, 21 percent of seniors cited moral values as their top issue and another 19 percent picked terrorism. Only 12 percent named controlling health care costs.

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