Gov. Tom Corbett (R-PA)
The Republican education agenda—privatization in the name of "school choice" and funding cuts—generally gets positive media coverage. But Republicans are getting an ugly reminder this election season that actual voters aren't so gullible. Democrats, meanwhile, have found in education a set of powerful messages that seem likely to mobilize turnout among the drop-off voters who vote Democratic in presidential years, then stay home in midterm years:
Accusing Republicans of cutting programs for students while giving tax breaks to the rich motivates diffident voters more than similarly partisan messages on reproductive rights, the economy or health care, veteran Democratic political strategist Celinda Lake found in a series of focus groups and polls.
Lake’s research, commissioned by MoveOn.org, included a survey of 1,000 Democratic voters who said they weren’t sure they’d bother to vote in the key states of North Carolina, Michigan, Kentucky, Colorado and Iowa. Coupling the education theme with talk about the middle class falling behind was “nearly a slam dunk with these targets,” Lake wrote.
Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg came to a similar conclusion after polling 2,200 likely voters in battleground states. They found that unmarried women in North Carolina and Georgia were particularly swayed by messages about expanding access to early childhood education. In Iowa and Colorado, affordable college loans hit the mark. Combining those issues with an appeal to raise the minimum wage, they wrote, creates a “powerful, populist opportunity to shift the vote.”
Education unions are taking advantage, running ads and mail pieces against Republicans who have cut education funding or voted against lowering student loan interest rates. Republicans, meanwhile, are mostly trying to change the subject to terrorism, brown immigrants, Ebola, and the traditional divide-and-conquer—stirring up fear rather than addressing the underfunded schools and student debt affecting so many Americans—but some, like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and North Carolina Senate candidate Thom Tillis, have been forced on the defensive about education.
Republican governors like Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett and Wisconsin's Scott Walker have been disastrous for education. Please chip in $3 to Daily Kos' endorsed candidates for governor.
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Education touches the vast majority of voters, from overcrowded grade school classrooms to adult lives shaped by enormous student debt, and the Republican agenda would make these things worse. Why not? Their wealthy donors don't have to worry about any of that.