Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER
Los Angeles Times blogger/former Bush aide Andrew Malcolm writes:
Back in 1994 when Bill Clinton received a lesser shellacking from voters angry over his liberal policies, he took three months to follow Dick Morris' advice, adopt some Republican goals like welfare reform as his own and declare out of the blue, "The era of big government is over." The result: An easy 1996 reelect for him.
Like Fred Barnes before him, Malcolm inexplicably ignores the effect an improving economy had on Clinton's re-election. As political scientist Brendan Nyhan has noted, "Clinton's move toward the center … may have helped somewhat to boost his margin above what we would have otherwise expected, but the driving force in 1996 (as in every election) was the state of the economy." (As Nyhan acknowledges later in the post, there is evidence that Clinton's move to the center is itself overstated.)
And as for Malcolm's suggestion that Clinton's adoption of "Republican goals like welfare reform as his own" resulted in an "easy 1996 reelect": Nonsense. First, Clinton had long made welfare reform a goal of his own. And by the time he signed legislation on August 22, 1996, Clinton had already built a comfortable lead over Bob Dole -- even after vetoing welfare legislation twice. When Clinton vetoed a welfare reform bill on January 9, 1996, he was trailing Dole in Gallup polling. By the time he signed a bill in August, Clinton had established a solid double-digit lead that reached 20 points on multiple occasions. So, basically, Malcolm is completely wrong.