Does Newt's support for Bush Rx Drug bill win Florida but lose conservatives?

Mitt Romney’s attack on Gingrich for alleged lobbying prompts full-throated defense of Bush Medicare reform

Tea partier criticism of President George W. Bush and the early 2000s’ Republican Congress as oxymoronic “big government” conservatives have always focused on his signature No Child Left Behind education accountability reforms and the addition of coverage for Rx drugs via Medicare Part D.

Then Senator Rick Santorum voted for the bill, but has disavowed that vote during his current run for the GOP presidential nomination:

In the 2012 election, Senator Santorum was critical of that program. He stated that it was not funded properly as it simply spends whatever seniors need. He stated that his vote for that program was a mistake, but that he voted in favor of the reform because of other portions of the program, and that no other option was on the table. He claimed in a debate that the overall reform program had come in 40% under budget.

Will tea partiers now turn to Santorum as the more reliable conservative over his the former Speaker who this week embraced the Bush planin the Sunshine State:

I have always publicly favored a stronger Medicare program. I wrote a book in 2002 called “Saving Lives and Saving Money.” I publicly favored Medicare Part D for a practical reason, and that reason is simple. The U.S. government was not prepared to give people anything — insulin, for example — but they would pay for kidney dialysis. They weren’t prepared to give people Lipitor, but they’d pay for open-heart surgery. That is a terrible way to run Medicare.

I am proud of the fact — and I’ll say this in Florida — I’m proud of the fact that I publicly, openly advocated Medicare Part D. It has saved lives. It’s run on a free enterprise model. It also included health savings accounts and it include Medicare alternatives, which gave people choices.

At what point must conservatives conclude that Newt and Mitt both fail the tea partier test and turn to Rick Santorum when he is the only remaining viable candidate that now opposes one of the main transgressions of Republicans that inspired the smaller government, tea party movement in the first place?

Mike DeVine

Atlanta Law & Politics columnist –  Examiner.com

Editor – Hillbilly Politics

Co-Founder and Editor – Political Daily

“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson

More DeVine Gamecock rooster crowings at Modern ConservativeUnified Patriots,  and Conservative Outlooks. All Charlotte Observer and Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-eds archived at Townhall.com.