President Bush has been clocking some serious time on education on the campaign trail recently, suggesting that he believes the issue will help him win votes in the swing states that he and his Democratic opponent have spent so much time visiting.
The president hosted three “Focus on Education” events in late September in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin—all states whose electoral votes are still considered up for grabs. Not surprisingly, he lauded the No Child Left Behind Act, one of his signature domestic-policy accomplishments. In addition, he’s been talking up his new education proposals and criticizing his Democratic rival, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, on the issue.
In Springfield, Ohio, Mr. Bush was joined by several Republican lawmakers, including Rep. John A. Boehner, the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.
“John and I and some others drafted some legislation called the No Child Left Behind Act,” the president told the crowd gathered at the Midwest Livestock and Expo Center on Sept. 27. “Someone said, ‘Well, you know, when you look back, what’s going to be important?’ Well, I’ll tell you, the peace is going to be important … but also making sure that this education system fulfilled its promise.”
At the same time, while Mr. Bush dedicated ample time to education at the forums, it was striking that he ended up devoting as much as, if not more, time to other issues, including terrorism and jobs.
Meanwhile, on Sept. 26, the White House issued a 16-page policy document titled “Education: The Promise of America,” which details the president’s accomplishments in that area, as well as new ideas he has pitched during his re-election bid. And on Sept. 29, the president’s chief domestic-policy adviser, Margaret Spellings, fielded questions from across the country on the “Ask the White House” online forum.
By contrast, Sen. Kerry hasn’t focused much attention on education lately. He’s spent far more time on issues such as the war in Iraq, energy policy, the economy, and health care.
Recent polling data may help explain Mr. Kerry’s emphasis. When a Washington Post-ABC News poll asked registered voters to name the single most important issue in choosing the next president, education came in dead last. It fell behind the economy/jobs, terrorism, Iraq, health care, and even the nebulous “other” category.