Medved on McCain, Conservatives, & Electability

A persistent – but factually wrong – theory on the right is that John McCain lost in 2008 because of a lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy among conservatives, resulting in lower turnout among conservative voters. This theory is especially popular among conservatives who haven’t been active in politics for very long or many elections. They tend to overestimate the extent to which “everyone thinks like me because all my friends do.”

Michael Medved had an interesting piece in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal (“Conservatives, Romney, and Electability”) that debunks this notion with the real facts:

Myth: In 2008, million of conservatives stayed home rather than vote for McCain. Facts: Exit polls showed 34% of the electorate self-identified as conservative in 2008 – the same percentage as in 2004, when George W. Bush was re-elected. And, overall turnout was higher in 2008 – meaning the number of conservatives who voted in 2008 (44.6 million) was more than the number who voted in 2004 (41.6 million).

Myth: McCain was a drag on the rest of the ticket in a way that a more conservative candidate would not have been. Facts: McCain drew nearly 8 million more votes that Republican House candidates in 2008 and carried 49 congressional districts in which the Republican house candidates lost. Had House candidates run as well as McCain, they would have won a majority in Congress.

Medved’s conclusion: “The notion that ideologically pure conservative candidates can win by disregarding centrists and magically producing previously undiscovered legions of true-believer voters remains a fantasy.”

fergus@ferguscullen.com, November 25, 2011

Author: Fergus Cullen

Fergus Cullen is a former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party (2007-2008) and an editorial page columnist for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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