The battle over Common Core is fast becoming one of the leading issues for potential candidates ahead of the 2016 election — especially in the early presidential voting state of Iowa, according to CBS News
The federal education standards are seen by conservatives as government becoming too involved in people’s lives, as well as a threat to parental rights to choose the education they want for their children.
And CBS says that is nowhere more true than in the Hawkeye State, where the Republican base, mostly evangelical Christians, states-rights activists and home-school advocates, is strongly opposed to Common Core. Together, those groups form a powerful voting bloc in the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus.
"Voters are very closely viewing it as a litmus test," Tamara Scott, a policy adviser and lobbyist with the Family Leader, an Iowa-based social conservatives' group, told CBS News.
"These are our children, and when you take parents out of the picture, which is what Common Core will do, most people find that offensive."
A Gallup poll last year
found that 76 percent of Republicans are dead-set against Common Core, with only 17 percent in favor.
John Brabender, a prominent adviser to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, told CBS News that Common Core was a leading topic at every recent town hall meeting that the 2012 Iowa caucus winner held in the state.
"Common Core is big everywhere," said Brabender. "You would be hard pressed to find a state where it's not a critical issue.
"And it is every bit as potent an issue as Obamacare or immigration or any other issue. It's also probably one of the few issues where there are legitimate differences between the candidates."
Forty-three states and the District of Columbia have adopted the standards, excluding Iowa, though officials there fear that students in the state may eventually fall victim to the Common Core through college admissions or nationwide standardized test development
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the potential GOP candidate most linked
with the controversial policy, and his support for it may hurt his chances in 2016, especially in Iowa.
Shane Vander Hart, a consultant with American Principles Project and Iowa RestorEd, an education reform group, said to CBS News of Bush, "Polling seems to indicate that it's going to be a problem for him.
"It's our activists who come out to vote on caucus night. If you don't resonate with the grassroots, you're going to be in trouble here in Iowa, and I think Jeb Bush is getting off on the wrong foot.
"Rick Santorum, [Kentucky Sen.] Rand Paul, and [Texas Sen.] Ted Cruz have all been against Common Core from the get-go," Vander Hart added.
Justin LaVan, president of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, also told CBS News that Bush's education position could be a "big issue" for him in the state.
LaVan said that any candidate who supports Common Core will raise concerns "about who they are and what they believe about education and states' rights."
Mike Huckabee, another potential White House contender, also faces a backlash over his previous support for the education standards.
Although Huckabee once called conservative criticism of Common Core "disturbing," he’s now apparently done a complete about-face.
"Anybody who tells you I support Common Core is incredibly less informed than he or she pretends to be or is just being plain dishonest because they really want to help somebody else," said the former Arkansas governor last month at the Iowa Freedom Summit.
But Brabender said, "Mike Huckabee is a guy who can defend himself. What I can tell you as a strategist is ... anybody who says that they've supported Common Core in the past is going to have a difficult time explaining to GOP primary voters why they ever supported it."
And Vander Hart said that despite Huckabee’s reversal on Common Core, he faces an uphill battle with Iowa Republicans, adding, "I know people who supported Huckabee in the past who say they're not going to now. The issue has hurt him."
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