What are “purely conservative principles”?

Michael Smerconish comments on the “blueing” of the Philadelphia suburbs (HT: Grassroots PA). Smerconish dismisses the idea that residents are fleeing Philadelphia for the suburbs, noting that population growth in the suburbs is greater than the loss in Philadelphia (but not by much – Smerconish seems to forget that population tends to grow naturally because, you know, people have kids)

He goes on to dismiss the “Republicans lost their way” hypothesis, because Bush and Santorum – who embody purely conservative principles more than anyone – both lost in SE PA.

Wait, didn’t Bush run on (and Santorum support) “Compassionate Conservatism” – i.e. Big Government Conservatism, or not conservatism at all? Didn’t Bush push, and Santorum support, Medicare expansion, No Child Left Behind, the farm bill, the transportation bill and a dramatic increase in federal spending? Didn’t Santorum work hard to obtain earmarks and pork projects (which Bush refused to veto or disregard), defend deficit spending, and push for new federal programs for “parental education” and other things? Didn’t Bush and Santorum support expanding federal power over state control, and Presidential authority over Congressional oversight?

What part of that is Conservative?

By dismissing the notion that “Republicans have lost their way”, Smerconish (and many others) reaffirm just how bad it has gotten. Not only are Republicans no longer looked to as supporting limited government, free markets, and controlling spending, but people like Smerconish have forgotten that is what “conservative” used to mean.