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Favorite GOP Primary Game: Bashing Jeb Bush on Common Core

By Alyson Klein — June 29, 2015 3 min read
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The 2016 election season is just getting started, but there’s already a favorite sport among GOP contenders: Hitting Jeb Bush for his support of the Common Core standards.

It’s happened over and over. It’s been both subtle and obvious. And it’s come from at least one former supporter of the standards, and from folks who never really liked them in the first place.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the probably the first to hit Bush for his standards-love, in a veiled way at first and then much more blatantly. First, here’s Paul in October 2014, to Breitbart, a conservative blog: “I don’t see Common Core being-if you’re for Common Core and you’re for a national curriculum, I don’t see it being a winning message in a Republican primary.” Notice he doesn’t name names here, he’s talking about some hypothetical GOP candidate.

Later, Paul was much more strident about it.

He sent out a fundraising email in January attacking Bush and other contenders (including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has since distanced himself from Common Core) for their support of the standards. And his RandPAC took out a Google search ad against Bush that links to the PAC when Google users search Bush’s name; the ad stated, “We need leaders who will stand against common core.”

And, in interviews, he dropped the “if-some-candidate” pretense thing and just went after Bush by name. “For Jeb Bush to run in the primary will be very, very difficult because if you’re going to be for a national curriculum and for Common Core and No Child Left Behind,” he said, according to a December 2014 article in the Washington Times.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has said he wants to “repeal” the standards, was a little less bombastic in this recent interview with Fox News. But he still used Common Core to draw a bright line between himself and Bush (after, it has to be said, some prompting from the interviewer, Megyn Kelly.) And Cruz went to Bush’s home state of Florida back in February to bash the standards.

Back in March, as-yet-undeclared candidate Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is maybe the most famous Common Core flip-flopper in the bunch, walked a very careful line in criticizing a series of pro-Common Core ads airing in Iowa. (See more about Jindal’s change of heart about the standards on this interactive “Swamp Fight” timeline.)

“If voters want to vote for someone who’s pro-Common Core, they’re going to have an opportunity to do that in this election,” Jindal told Buzzfeed, a reference the news website flagged as a veiled jab at Bush.

What’s more, Jindal made it clear to Buzzfeed that, unlike Bush, he’s had direct experience with Common Core from the governor’s mansion.

“Without talking specifically about Jeb or anybody else, I do think that one common experience for those of us who have been governors for the last six years is we’ve seen firsthand federal overreach by the Obama administration,” he told Buzzfeed, “I think that’s been a formative experience for many folks. We have more of a sharp distrust of the federal government’s unwillingness to let us make our own decisions.”

And, back in December, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry told the Washington Times that Bush’s position on Common Core contrasted with his own, but that he’d allow Bush to defend his position on the issue.

Then came the pile on. Carly Fiorina who had supported Common Core when she ran for Senate back in 2010, has said Bush is “dead wrong” on the standards. So has Donald Trump. Neither of them, of course, are top tier candidates.

Meanwhile, other candidates and potential candidates— Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Christie, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee—who arguably have more of a shot at actually winning the nomination have trumpeted their own opposition to the standards. But they haven’t attacked Bush directly for being a fan. (At least, I couldn’t find any instances where they had. But please let me know if I missed something.)

That could be because at least two of them—Christie and Huckabee—were for the Common Core before they were against it. Walker too, didn’t dump on the standards during his early days in Wisconsin, even if he didn’t rush to hug them. And Rubio and Bush had a long political partnership before they became rivals for the GOP nod.

So, once the election begins in earnest, will we see more Bush and Common Core bashing, even among the top tier? And will anyone else get caught in the Common Core crosshairs? After all, no one has hit (as yet undeclared candidate) Ohio Gov. John Kasich for his support of the standards, even though it’s arguably been harder for him to continue to embrace them, according to this smart State Ed Watch post.

Libary Intern Maya Riser-Kositsky contributed to this post.

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