GREENVILLE, North Carolina — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has a harsh message for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and any other potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates: Support Common Core? You won’t win the presidential primary.
“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,” Paul said in an interview backstage at an event where he endorsed Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) for reelection. “If there’s a Republican candidate out there–let’s just say there’s a hypothetical one that’s for Common Core. I’m saying that that hypothetical candidate that’s for Common Core probably doesn’t have much chance of winning in a Republican primary.”
Paul did not name Jeb Bush personally, but the former Florida governor and potential 2016 candidate has been an outspoken advocate for Common Core national educational standards. Bush was here in North Carolina on the other side of the state in late September to endorse the state House Speaker Thom Tillis’ U.S. Senate bid against incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), during which Tillis sought to distance himself from Bush’s views on both immigration and Common Core.
During the event where he endorsed Tillis, Bush pushed Common Core and immigration–two things from which Tillis distanced himself from Bush.
“I’m not willing to settle just for a national standard if we think we can find things to set a new standard and a best practice,” Tillis said about Common Core, according to The New York Times, before attacking the Department of Education as “a bureaucracy of 5,000 people in Washington” who average more than $100,000 apiece in annual salary.
After Bush pushed immigration, the Times noted, Tillis separated himself from Bush on that, as well. “You have to make it clear that amnesty shouldn’t be on the table,” Tillis said. “That doesn’t negate any opportunity to provide some with legal status and other things, but you only do that after you seal the borders and you make the problem no longer grow.”
In his interview with Breitbart News at the Jones campaign event, Paul’s aggressive opposition to anything Common Core is a sign of what’s likely to come as 2016 approaches, as he gears up for a likely White House bid–and Bush and other Republicans who have expressed support for Common Core do the same.
“I don’t think there’s really a constitutional role for the federal government in education. So I’m not for a national curriculum,” Paul said, adding:
I think the danger of having one central governmental authority deciding curriculum is what if we get some people who decide we really need to treat Karl Marx fairly, we need to make sure he gets a good writeup in the history and Adam Smith, oh gosh, he was terrible. You can see how once it’s nationalized, one person can insert a bias into the curriculum, and it goes everywhere, and then you have to fight it. Should your local school district have to fight Washington, or shouldn’t you have to go to a school board member and say, “Should we have that in our textbooks?” So more local control is better. And different parts of the country might choose different curriculums–and North Carolina is more conservative, so my guess is they might have a little bit different curriculum than San Francisco.
Other potential GOP 2016 candidates have supported Common Core also, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who now says he’s against it since it has departed from what he says was its original purpose, and Indiana’s Gov. Mike Pence, who has tussled with conservative activists over the program. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has backed the program somewhat, issuing an executive order to create a panel to determine the program’s effectiveness–a panel that anti-Common Core leaders have heavily criticized.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has also walked a tough line on the education issue, having earlier this year created a commission to “revisit” the Common Core standards, but has since called for the repeal of the standards in his state.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has come out swinging against Common Core, but his embrace of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration bill that granted amnesty to illegal aliens has already taken its toll on him in polls. He has since distanced himself from that immigration bill and actively worked against any efforts to pass his own bill through the House after it passed the Senate.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has come out strong against Common Core, and under his leadership, Texas was one of only five U.S. states to never sign onto the program. That makes Rubio, Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Paul the only likely 2016 presidential candidates who have not waffled on the issue to be seriously vying for the 2016 GOP nomination–a smart battlefield for Paul to seek out and define early.
It’s certainly a smart place to do it, too. During interviews between speeches by various local candidates here, Tea Party activists, including those from the Coastal Carolina Taxpayers Association (CCTA)–one of the most aggressive local Tea Party groups in the region–recounted how they have battled with their state leaders in both parties over Common Core.
“Common Core is a very big issue,” CCTA Chairman Rick Hopkins told Breitbart News. “The leader of our Common Core watchdog group was very instrumental here in Raleigh working with the legislature leaders and getting that law changed.”
When Jones introduced Paul to a group of donors at the first of two fundraisers–this one for higher dollar donors, the second an evening barbecue for hundreds of Jones supporters–he spoke of Paul as if he were already designated the next President of the United States.
“He is a man that in my opinion could maybe be the only individual that can save America from self-destruction,” Jones said of Paul as he introduced him to the group of about 100 people in the Hilton function room in downtown Greenville. He continued:
The country is $17.7 trillion in debt. In the year 2000, it was $5.6 trillion. Today, it’s $17.7 trillion. Neither Bush nor Obama have followed the Constitution. The man that I’m going to introduce right now believes in the Constitution, and when he raises his right hand to accept the presidency of the United States, he will follow the Constitution. I give to you right now Sen. Rand Paul from the great state of Kentucky.
Those inside the event cheered, and one man shouted, “I hope so!”
In his interview backstage later, between the two events, Paul joked that Jones was not “authorized” to say he’s running for president.
“He’s in trouble; he was not authorized–completely not authorized–[to say that],” Paul joked.
When asked if he is any closer to making a decision than he was a few weeks ago–when Breitbart News asked him and was told that he would likely make the call next spring–Paul said, “We’re about the same.”
But Paul did say he is not going to run “for fun,” and if he does run for the presidency, he’s going for a win.
“We’re thinking some time in the spring we’ll know better,” Paul stated.
Elaborating, he said:
What I decided about a year ago was to travel the country, see if the message could be broadened to bring in a bigger constituency to see if we can win again, and I’m going to keep doing that for another few months to see where we are. Part of my decision-making is family, and part of my decision-making is [whether] the message [is] big enough, and do we have a chance to win with this message. I don’t want to run just for fun because frankly, it’s not always that much fun.
Paul said he is definitely finding that his message is resonating on college campuses nationwide: “Whether it’s the University of South Carolina, the College of Charleston, or the University at Berkeley, kids universally want someone who will defend their privacy.” He added that he thinks millennials “feel let down by this President.”
In an interview after the event, where approximately 400 people came out on a work night to hear his message, Jones said that he’s “more excited for Rand” than he is for himself . “I want him to feel the energy that’s here for him, and it was here tonight.” He then asserted:
There’s not a whole lot of difference in either party, except the Republican Party will stand for the unborn, which the Democrats won’t do, and will stand for traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which the Democrats won’t do. But as far as everything else–spending–this is what’s going to save the Republican Party, is somebody like Rand Paul. There are others, like Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann and others, but Rand’s got the best shot, in my opinion. His intellectual ability came out tonight with those ideas about how to help those out of place and give them hope and give them a chance.