It has taken a while for the mainstream media to focus on the effect Common Core has had on Republican presidential campaigns. But Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, in discussing the unexpected weakness and in some cases collapse of candidates who were or are governors, has drawn the connection between a governor’s support of Common Core and his political fortunes.
As Barnes notes, governors can present themselves as more experienced and reliable since they’ve had to make decisions and run things, not just talk about what they would do if given an executive position. But when they act against the wishes of their states’ citizens on something as critical as education, those citizens sound the alarm about the true nature of this Man Who Would Be President. And with the pro-Constitution, anti-Common Core movement connected by such national networks as TAE, there’s nowhere for the offending governor to hide.
The worst miscreant on the Common Core front, of course, is former Gov. Jeb Bush. Anyone who has attended anti-Common Core rallies in critical electoral states such as Ohio knew from the outset that Bush had no chance with the base (he could have saved a lot of time and money if he had consulted us before launching his campaign). Bush has been Mr. Common Core from the beginning, and nothing he could do or say would change that.
And speaking of Ohio, Gov. John Kasich has achieved the distinction of alienating his constituents on Common Core more than any other candidate. Ohioans not only reject his support of Common Core, they quite properly resent his sneering disdain for their concerns. You may notice the absence of a groundswell for Kasich (even, or perhaps especially, in Ohio).
Then there are the governors such as Bobby Jindal and Chris Christie who initially embraced Common Core but tried to walk back their support. For years Jindal gave the impression that he wasn’t really focused on education issues, and he may truly have seen the light and tried to undo the damage (even with a federal lawsuit), but it was hard for him to erase the lingering distrust of Louisiana parents who tried so hard to get his attention earlier. Christie, on the other hand, has focused less on the unconstitutionality and philosophical deficiencies of Common Core and more on problematic “implementation.” Suggesting that an unconstitutional monstrosity would be fine if it were properly implemented has greatly diminished Christie’s appeal to the Republican base.
Scott Walker is in a category by himself. Having blown both hot and cold on the issue, Walker finally settled into an embrace of “state control” over standards and said the right things against Common Core. But the anti-Common Core activists in Wisconsin recognized – and repeatedly warned the national networks – that Walker not only was not helping rid the state of Common Core, but he or his people were working behind the scenes to defeat attempts to replace the national standards with superior state standards. The implosion of the Walker campaign began – coincidentally? – about the time these warnings were circulated.
The only governor whose campaign crumbled despite his true anti-Common Core bona fides was Rick Perry. But a compelling argument can be made that Perry’s fall was precipitated more by lingering memories of his campaign stumbles from four years ago than by any of his current positions.
The lesson here is that candidates act at their peril when they ignore parents’ concerns about their children. Add those concerns to worries about threats to the rule of law and to our constitutional structure, and you have a potent force that can sink – and have sunk – political fortunes.