TIME Education

Conservative Christians Split on Common Core

Conservative Political Action Conference
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md. on March 7, 2014. Bill Clark—CQ-Roll Call

A discussion hosted on Wednesday by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think tank, started as a searing critique of the Common Core, a set of reading and math standards for public school students that were originally adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, and ended with a not-so-subtle threat: any elected official who supports them will be punished.

“I submit to you that any politician—left or right, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat or libertarian—any politician who is not fighting [Common Core] is not fit for office,” said Emmett McGroarty, an executive director at the American Principles Project, a conservative advocacy organization. “This issue will be the most important litmus test” for voters in both the midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential race, he said—”and it’s not going to be pretty for a lot of Republican governors.”

The crowd chuckled in agreement.

In an era in which politicians are especially vulnerable to right-wing referendums and grassroots populism (see, “Cantor, Eric”), McGroarty’s message seems at first to pack some serious punch, except for one thing: conservative Christians—and conservatives in general—are hardly a unified voting bloc when it comes to the controversial issue of the Common Core.

Earlier this year, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, one of the biggest evangelical groups in the country, representing roughly 16 million voters and 40,000 churches, announced its support for Common Core on the grounds of “Biblical justice and equality.” Another wildly popular Christian politician, Mike Huckabee—otherwise a darling of the Family Research Council—has used his radio show to urge Republicans to back the standards, despite opposite from powerful groups like the American Association of Christian Schools.

“Parents and people involved in their local schools should let it be known that core standards are valuable, and they’re not something to be afraid of—they are something to embrace,” he said.

While Huckabee has drawn fire from right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin, he has earned support from others in the Christian right, including some Catholic educators and evangelical pastors. Karen Swallow Prior, a professor at Liberty University, a conservative Christian institution, has been an outspoken proponent of Common Core, as has Nicole Baker Fulgham, the author of “Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can – and Should – Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids.”

The bickering between conservative Christians on the Common Core underscores a larger civil war within both the Republican and Democratic parties that has, in past few months, catalyzed an explosion of unlikely alliances on both the right and left over this issue. Last month, after the American Federation of Teachers, one of the biggest teachers’ unions in the country, moved to distance itself from the Common Core, it found itself cheered by a handful of some of the most fiercely anti-union Tea Party groups in Washington. Freedom Works, the Heritage Foundation, as well as many potential Republican presidential nominees, including senators Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and former Senator Rick Santorum, have all panned the standards.

Meanwhile, many traditional liberals—from labor activists to comedians like Louis C.K. and Jon Stewart—have come down against the standards, while organizations that have traditionally been in the GOP’s corner, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, have fervently supported them. Other potential GOP presidential hopefuls, like Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, have also stood behind the initiative, despite increasing opposition from their base.

One reason for the schizophrenic nature of the debate is that while Common Core has become President Barack Obama’s signature educational policy in the last few years, it is born of a fundamentally conservative idea. For years, Republicans have demanded the implementation of the rigorous standards called for in President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, and complained that, without standards that allow for comparisons between states, a second grader in Missouri will not have the same skill sets as second graders in Kansas or Maine.

The Common Core was originally conceived and written by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, with funding from several private philanthropies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The initiative is a set of voluntary educational benchmarks designed to standardize notions of “achievement” and “college readiness” between states; it is not a national curriculum. As conservatives have long demanded, the program leaves decisions about teaching methodology, textbooks, technology, and curriculum to states and local school boards.

After the Obama administration embraced the Common Core in 2009 and tied adoption of the standards to the disbursal of federal funds through the Race to the Top program, conservatives denounced the program as a federal government incursion into states rights. Tea Party groups have also objected to the fact that corporate philanthropies have actively supported the standards. They argue that the initiative amounts to, in the words of at least one presenter at the Family Research Council on Wednesday, “a corporate takeover of American schools.”

Meanwhile, liberal activists and teachers unions generally object to the Common Core on the grounds that new standardized tests, designed to measure students’ grasp of Common Core concepts, will be linked to teachers’ performance evaluations and salaries, as well as to whether students are allowed to advance to the next grade level. They argue that teachers and students who do not perform well on the new tests will be unfairly penalized.

This opposition, from both the right and left, has led to several states, including Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and North Carolina, to pull support for the Common Core. Two years ago, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said the program “will raise expectations for every child”; this year, he compared it to centralized planning in the Soviet Union and moved to repeal the program. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has also called for repeal.

For most of the states that have adopted the Common Core, this school year will mark the first time students and teachers will use their states’ new curriculum. The battle among conservative Christians, as well as conservative, liberals, and parents of every stripe promises to heat up next month.

TIME Congress

Eric Cantor and John Boehner: The Bromance Is Over

As told through the lyrics of Alan Jackson's "Remember When"

On Thursday, Congressman Eric Cantor will step down from his post as House majority leader, following his shocking primary defeat in June, thus ending his Capitol Hill bromance with House Speaker John Boehner — a relationship that captivated so many hearts across the nation.

When Cantor first assumed the role of HML in 2011, some speculated that the up-and-comer was angling for Boehner’s job, but the GOP’s two top dogs were not to be defined by acrimony — after all, what good romance doesn’t begin with a little tension? (Have you seen The Notebook?)

Here, we’ve assembled a scrapbook that illustrates the bromance heard round the Beltway, each photo captioned with a lyric from Alan Jackson’s “Remember When,” because obviously. It is highly advisable to play the song as you click through the photos.

TIME republicans

Inside Sarah Palin’s Truman Show

Western Conservative Summit
Former Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin speaks to the crowd of Western Conservative Summit at Hyatt Regency in Denver on July 19. 2014. Hyoung Chang—Denver Post/Getty Images

Want to know Palin’s every inner thought? There’s an online channel for that

Any time former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a thought, she now can share it with the world, or at least the world of Internet television subscribers willing to pay $9.99 a month or $99.95 a year for Palin’s pearls of wisdom.

The newest platform for Palinisms is brought to us by Tapp, a platform for subscription video channels. Palin is the second channel Tapp has launched, following one for radio relationship guru Steve Arterburn. But while Arterburn usually films his daily shows over a day and a half each week, Palin’s approach is decidedly more Truman-esque — that’s Truman like Jim Carrey’s The Truman Show, not the former President.

Tapp installed dozens of cameras in Palin’s two homes, one in Alaska and another in Arizona, so that any time the mood strikes her, she can flip on a camera virtually anywhere in her house and broadcast. “She’s not on a set. She can just riff and you’re seeing your idol in their natural habitat,” Jon Klein, Tapp co-founder and CEO, tells TIME.

Palin has also gone mobile, shooting video on smartphones “as she’s taking her kids around town,” says Klein. “It’s really front row seat of her life as it unfolds,” he adds.

Klein approached Palin with the idea through her lawyer, Bob Barnett, and he has shouldered all the upfront costs, while he’ll split any profits with Palin. He says he’s already happy with the response to their endeavor, though he declines to “characterize” the number of people who have signed up thus far. Active members of the armed services can sign up for free.

So, what does Palin talk about all day long? “She’s really in to what people post— the comments on her Facebook page, she reads Twitter—and she’s really into the communal aspects of things. She loves crowds; loves engaging. Instead of keeping all the responses to herself or turning to [her husband] Todd Palin, she can flip on the camera and respond.”

And her “super fans,” as Klein calls her subscriber base, can respond as well. A sampling of some of the comments Palin followers have made on her channel:

Curtesy of Tapp cable tv

 

But Palin’s “super fans” aren’t the only ones who have taken notice. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert registered the domain TheSarahPalinChannel.com. Thus far, the site just links to a Colbert show segment on Palin and Paul Revere, but Colbert and his staff have promised to have some fun with Palin and her channel’s footage. Super fans, it seems, come in all different forms.

TIME Congress

House Republicans Unveil Women’s Legislation in Push for Female Voters

Speaker Boehner And House GOP Leadership Address The Media After Their Weekly Conference
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers listens during a briefing at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee in Washington on March 5, 2014 Alex Wong—Getty Images

The party that was once against identity politics is learning to court the female vote

House Republicans on Wednesday will introduce a package of legislation aimed at helping “all Americans — particularly women — succeed at home and at work,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ office told TIME exclusively. McMorris Rodgers has been spearheading the House effort to draft and introduce the measures for months. For a party that has loathed identity politics, the moment is an acknowledgment of how powerful female voters have become.

“As a wife, mom, and member of Congress, I am proud to promote legislative solutions that celebrate the extraordinarily positive role women play in all sectors of our economy,” McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 House Republican and the highest-ranking woman in GOP leadership, tells TIME. “Simply put: these bills will make life better for millions of Americans.”

Democrats have focused almost their entire 2014 agenda around issues that affect female voters, from pay equity to increasing the minimum wage, which impacts women disproportionately. They are hoping that by turning out single women, a reliably Democratic group but one that doesn’t often turn out for midterm elections, they can keep the Senate from flipping.

Republicans are seeking to check that move by appealing to women themselves, and McMorris Rodgers’ pitch on Wednesday is part of that effort. The move, part of a coordinated GOP effort to woo women this year, is striking. Republicans have long eschewed identity politics and, aside from George W. Bush’s courtship of soccer and security moms, have never made such a push as seen this year to court an individual voting bloc.

The package consists of several bills the House has already passed that increase job training, incentivize flexible work schedules, tax breaks for children and families, and strengthens charter schools. Most of the bills have been DOA in the Senate in an election year, though in a less polarized time they might have drawn some support. Democrats have introduced several similar workplace flexibility bills. The package also includes some new legislation to prevent retaliation when women ask about equal pay, a bill that restores cuts to home Medicare health care services and Child Care and Development Block Grant legislation, a bipartisan bill that has already passed the Senate and would become law if passed by the House.

With more and more women working, flexibility for both parents has become an increasingly popular issue on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Three-fourths of women are in the workforce today, women manage over 80% of household income, and more than 60% of women with children under 6 are working, according to Labor Department statistics. “We absolutely believe that women should absolutely get equal pay for equal work,” McMorris Rodgers says. “If there’s discrimination taking place then laws need to be strengthened. Equal pay was passed in 1963, civil rights in 1964, it’s been the law of the land but we are looking at strengthening those laws … The workforce has changed. Our laws should too.” Democrats have brought up legislation allowing women an indefinite amount of time to sue for loss of equal pay, but Republicans have shot down those bills as too onerous on employers, preferring a route that strengthens penalties as a deterrence.

Democrats have a 10-point advantage with women voters, according to a July Pew Research Center poll. While, conversely, Republicans have a 12-point edge with male voters, men turn out proportionately 10% less than female voters. All of which is to say, the female vote is much more powerful. The only time Republicans have won the female vote since 1984 — by less than 2 percentage points in 2010 — they took back the House and nearly flipped the Senate. Democrats, who hold a two-point lead in generic poll matchups, say the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision and right-wing calls to impeach President Obama have helped bolster their case this year with women. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the House, says 60% of donations reaped by their $2.1 million anti-impeachment fundraising haul have come from women.

Senate Republicans Kelly Ayotte and Deb Fischer have introduced their own flexible work legislation—Fischer also introduced a package of equal pay, paid leave and microfinance bills—and the Republican National Committee recently held a women’s summit to bolster candidate recruitment and training. The RNC also launched “14 in 14” a program, which recruits young women to volunteer at least 30 minutes of their time every week for the 14 weeks leading up to the midterm elections. They will recruit other volunteers, potential candidates, identify female voters, work phone banks and help get people to the polls on election day.

All of these GOP efforts are also pushback on Democratic assertions that Republicans are waging a “war on women,” trying to limit not only abortion rights, but access to contraception — a narrative the Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that a private company’s owners could refuse to pay as part of employee health insurance certain kinds of contraception in the face of their Christian beliefs — plays into. The GOP made a coordinated effort over the past two years to train their candidates and members to speak more delicately about issues of rape and abortion after inopportune comments offending women by two GOP Senate candidates arguably cost the party control of the Senate in 2012.

At the same time, Republicans have countered with an emphasis on economic issues. An RNC poll out last month found that women voters care more about the economy and jobs than social issues. “Democrats have long tried to reduce women to single-issue voters, and Republican have consistently called them out for failing to respect the fact that women vote on a wide range of issues,” the RNC’s Sharon Day wrote in an op-ed on Real Clear Politics on June 24. “By relying on cynical political attacks like the ‘war on women’ that lack substance, Democrats have failed to provide women with solutions to our top concerns.”

McMorris Rodgers’ efforts dovetail with the broader GOP push to turn the conversation away from hot-button topics to areas where Republicans are stronger, and frankly more comfortable discussing, like the economy. But given the House’s crowded schedule, looking to pass a bill overhauling the Veterans Affairs Department, an $11 billion patch on transport ion infrastructure funding and dealing with the influx of child refugees, the legislation is unlikely to pass before they break on Friday for a five-week summer recess. “After 2010, women on the Democratic side looked at that and said, we’ve got to do something, and they came up with the ‘war on women,’” McMorris Rodgers tells TIME. “And unfortunately a couple of our guys weeks before the election in 2012 made some really outrageous comments that are not reflective of the entire Republican Party and yet were very damaging. So we have some work to do to build the trust and to make sure that people recognize that the policies that we’re promoting for men and women will empower them and make a better life for them.”

TIME Television

Sarah Palin Has Launched Her Own Internet Television Network

The former vice-presidential candidate envisions The Sarah Palin Channel to function as a "community," she tells viewers in a video clip on the homepage

+ READ ARTICLE

Sarah Palin has never been uncomfortable with her status as one of America’s most watchable celebrities, which she’s enjoyed since first joining John McCain’s presidential campaign as a virtually unknown former governor of Alaska six years ago next month. She gave us a memoir, she gave us another memoir, she landed a spot at Fox News. “She was hot and got ratings,” network president Roger Ailes told the Associated Press.

Now, she’ll be the star of her own internet television network, Variety reports, after The Sarah Palin Channel launched Sunday night.

In an introductory video posted on the network’s website, Palin digs at the status quo of information and politics in the U.S., and while she doesn’t ever directly address the perimeters of party lines, there is obvious reason to suspect that she’s gunning for a conservative audience.

“We’ll go directly to the root of the problems confronting America,” she says in the clip. “We’ll talk about the issues that the mainstream media won’t talk about. We’ll look at the ideas that I think Washington doesn’t want you to hear.”

The 50-year-old describes the network as a “community” where, for a subscription fee of either $9.95 a month or $99.95 a year, users can post footage to the site, send Palin their own questions and, should they so desire, read a blog curated by Bristol Palin, her 24-year-old daughter.

Palin’s not the first candidate to lose an election and then embrace the media. Aug. 1 marks the ninth anniversary of the launch of Current TV, Al Gore’s since-folded television network, which Al Jazeera bought last year.

 

TIME republicans

Top Obama Aide: Rand Paul Is ‘Most Intriguing’ Republican

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the 2014 National Urban League Conference July 25, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks at the 2014 National Urban League Conference July 25, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Jay LaPrete—Getty Images

"He's the only Republican I think who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans"

A senior aide to President Barack Obama suggested Friday that Sen. Rand Paul would be the greatest threat to Democrats’ hopes to retain the White House in 2016.

Speaking to reporters, counselor to the president Dan Pfeiffer said the Kentucky Republican is “one of the most intriguing candidates” in the field because of his appeal to younger voters of both parties.

“He’s the only Republican I think who has articulated a message that is potentially appealing to younger Americans,” Pfeiffer said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “Every other Republican running is basically just Romney-lite when it comes to younger Americans.” Rand has made reaching out to non-traditional voters a signature component of his political agenda, most recently delivering a speech Friday to the National Urban League.

As for the senator’s presidential hopes, Pfeiffer questioned whether Paul has the organization to be a real threat and acknowledged that he would have to first make it through a tough primary where some of his positions are problematic to voters. But, he added, “there’s a germ of something there.”

Among Paul’s potential rivals, Pfeiffer suggested that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would be one of the weakest candidates Republicans could field. “I think that Sen. Cruz would be a really interesting candidate for Democrats,” he said. “He is deeply out of step with the country on a wide array of issues.”

Asked whether he would prefer to run a candidate against Cruz or Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Pfeiffer laughed, “That’s like, would you rather have ice cream or cake.”

One of the longest-serving Obama aides, Pfeiffer brushed away the suggestion that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the odds-on favorite to be the Democratic presidential nominee, has tried to distance herself from Obama in recent weeks as she travels the country on her book tour.

“I don’t think that we should presume that Secretary Clinton or anyone else must agree 100% with the president on every single decision that was ever made, either before or since,” Pfeiffer said. “But she has been incredibly loyal to this president.”

“On the long list of concerns that I have in my life, political and otherwise, this is pretty low on the list,” he added. “I don’t think that she’s trying to distance herself.”

TIME Barack Obama

Top Obama Aide: I ‘Would Not Discount’ Impeachment

U.S. President Obama greets U.S. Vice President Biden before signing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act at the White House in Washington
U.S. President Barack Obama before signing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act at the White House in Washington on July 22, 2014. Joshua Roberts—Reuters

House Speaker John Boehner's lawsuit against the president has "opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some in the future," says Dan Pfeiffer

A senior aide to President Barack Obama said Friday he “would not discount” the possibility of Republicans trying to impeach the president in the coming months.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Dan Pfeiffer, a counselor to the president, said House Republican efforts to sue Obama could lead them down the road toward impeachment proceedings.

“I think a lot of people in this town laugh that off,” Pfeiffer said at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “I would not discount that possibility. I think Speaker Boehner, by going down the path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to Republicans possibly considering impeachment at some in the future.”

Pfeiffer’s comments came as a new poll from CNN/ORC was released showing that around one third of Americans, and a majority of Republicans, said that Obama should face impeachment.

Asked whether impeachment would be a net positive for the president, Pfeiffer said he didn’t think so. “I think that impeachment is a very serious thing that has been bandied about by the recent Republican vice-presidential nominee [Sarah Palin] and others in a very non-serious way, and no one has even made any allegation of anything that would be within six universes of what is generally considered in that space. But no, we take it very seriously and I don’t think it would be a good thing.”

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel accused Pfeiffer of playing “political games” with the suggestion of impeachment. “We have a humanitarian crisis at our border, and the White House is making matters worse with inattention and mixed signals. It is telling, and sad, that a senior White House official is focused on political games, rather than helping these kids and securing the border.”

The prospect of impeachment could be a political boon for Democrats this fall, driving up the base’s interest in the midterm elections this year. The House only needs a simple majority to report out articles of impeachment, but the Senate must convict on a two-thirds vote, a potential messaging point for Democrats as they seek to hold onto the majority in the Senate.

Pfeiffer said the Republican efforts to sue Obama “in some way validates” the executive actions that the president has pursued, which have come under fire from Democratic critics for being too limited in scope.

TIME republicans

Governor Rick Scott Shows What a Real Scandal Looks Like

Rick Scott, Will Weayherford
Gov. Rick Scott, left, and house speaker Will Weatherford speak at a news conference after session on Thursday, May 1, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. Steve Cannon—AP

The Florida governor has been questioned about his investment in a natural gas company and his aide's involvement in a rail project.

A few months ago, I wrote about an epidemic of fake Republican scandals that Democrats were hyping for 2014, starting with a nothingburger of a whatever-gate involving Florida Governor Rick Scott. My point was that political scandals rarely get traction, and shouldn’t get traction, without a semi-plausible link to significant public policies. Let me put it a different way: Damaging scandals look more like the two latest messes involving Governor Scott.

The first involves Scott’s support for a controversial Miami-to-Orlando rail project known as All Aboard Florida, when the company pushing it had financial ties to his chief of staff. The second involves Scott’s support for a controversial natural gas pipeline to North Florida, when he owned a stake in the company building it. You probably haven’t heard about these messes, because they’re pretty obscure. They’re also mini-messes, especially for Scott, who was once CEO of a hospital chain that paid a record $1.7 billion fine for fraud committed on his watch.

What could turn these messes into scandals is their potential link to public policies—in particular, to lame and unpopular policies that could look even worse if Scott’s probable opponent, Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, can frame them as corrupt policies. There’s nothing inherently wrong with government support for a train linking Miami and Orlando—though my pal Carl Hiaasen is not an All Aboard Florida fan—but it looks pretty sketchy after Governor Scott (at the urging of his conflicted chief of staff) rejected $2.4 billion in federal money for a high-speed rail project that would have eventually linked Miami, Orlando and Tampa. Similarly, there’s a case to be made for a natural gas pipeline to Florida, but it’s hard to square with Scott’s support for utilities waging an outrageous war to prevent homeowners from going solar in the Sunshine State.

Asking questions about an opponent’s record can be good politics, but answering them can be even better politics. It’s one thing to ask why Scott rejected federal money for a shovel-ready high-speed train that promised 27,000 jobs and enjoyed strong support from Florida’s business community; it’s another thing to suggest that Scott was clearing the way for his crony’s speculative slow-speed train. It’s one thing to ask why the Sunshine State is intentionally skipping a nationwide solar revolution that is reducing carbon emissions while saving ratepayers money; it’s another thing to suggest that Scott has a personal interest in pushing gas instead.

Scott will have a dramatic financial advantage in the fall, and it’s not clear whether voters will accept Crist’s latest political change of clothes, especially in what’s shaping up as a Republican year. But Scott is unpopular—he’s still best known as the Medicare fraud guy—and so are his policies. The challenge for Democrats is to link the personal to the political. Real scandals can do that.

 

TIME republicans

Businessman David Perdue Wins the GOP Senate Primary in Georgia

David Perdue
David Perdue waves to supporters after declaring victory in the Republican primary runoff for nomination to the U.S. Senate from Georgia, at his election-night party in Atlanta on July 22, 2014 John Bazemore—AP

The Republican businessman will take on Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, at the polls in November

Georgia Republicans picked themselves a Republican nominee for Senate Tuesday. For the first time in many a pecan season, the choice was less about the quality of the GOP candidates than about who was best to beat the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn.

Nunn, the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, is the most formidable Democratic candidate to crop up statewide in Georgia in years. She will face off with David Perdue, a businessman and cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue, who won the primary runoff with less than 51% of the vote against Representative Jack Kingston. (Ideologically speaking, both Kingston and Perdue are very similar and capable of giving Nunn a tough race.)

Nunn enters the general elections with a money and momentum advantage over Perdue, who topped a May primary of seven candidates but faced a runoff with the other top vote getter, Kingston, after failing to secure more than 50% of the vote. Nunn had at least $3.7 million on hand at the end of the last quarter in April and her campaign recently announced she raised another $3.5 million in the second quarter, though they’ve yet to disclose how much cash on hand remains. Perdue, a millionaire who has already given his primary campaign $1.25 million in personal funds, had $784,000 cash on hand as of July 2, but his primary with Kingston was bruising and required a lot of paid media in the final weeks.

Neither Nunn, the former CEO of Points of Light — a national volunteer program run with the Bush Family Foundation — nor Perdue, the former CEO of Dollar General, have ever been elected to public office before. They are running to fill the seat of retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Republican. Georgia is one of the Democrats’ top two pick of seats in the Senate and a stopgap measure as they stand of the edge of losing the Senate majority.

Kingston’s defeat was a defeat for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which poured $2.3 million into the race on his behalf, effectively making Perdue the CEO candidate without business backing. Kingston had a long record of probusiness votes, while Perdue is more of a blank slate.

“There is a clear contrast in this race between Michelle Nunn, a leader who has spent the last 25 years leading volunteer organizations and lifting communities up, and David Perdue, someone who has spent his career enriching himself while often times tearing companies and communities apart,” said Democratic Party of Georgia chair DuBose Porter. “Georgians want leaders who will fix the mess in Washington, not someone who puts personal profit ahead of regular people.”

TIME 2016 Election

2016 Conservatives Take the Common Core Test

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 14, 2014.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 14, 2014. Jacquelyn Martin—AP

The state standards are becoming a defining issue for GOP presidential hopefuls

If you’re searching for signs that a Republican politician is serious about a 2016 presidential run, watch what he or she says about Common Core.

Over the past several months, the state education standards developed by a bipartisan group of governors and educators have become one of the conservative movement’s biggest bugbears. Common Core is now “radioactive,” as Iowa GOP Gov. Terry Branstad put it recently. And the animus toward it within the Republican base has sent the politicians who are vying to be their next leader scrambling to distance themselves from the policy.

On Friday, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin became the latest 2016 contender to ditch the standards, issuing a one-sentence statement calling on the Badger State legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it “with standards set by the people of Wisconsin.” But Walker is hardly the first national figure to revisit his position toward Common Core as the conservative outcry intensifies.

Earlier this week, New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed an executive order creating a commission to examine the efficacy of the standards. The move was a hedge by Christie, who has supported Common Core, and may buy him cover to move further away from the policy later if the politics continue to sour.

Other likely 2016 hopefuls have been less equivocal. In April, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation dropping Common Core. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose state adopted the standards in 2010, issued executive orders last month to spike the policy—against the wishes of his state’s education superintendent.

These GOP governors are at the back of the pack of 2016 hopefuls when it comes to ditching Common Core. Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed a law banning the standards in his state. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio all came out in opposition last year as the backlash built, fed by the (inaccurate) perception that Common Core is a federal takeover of education foisted on the states. By now, the only potential 2016 GOP candidate unambiguously in favor of the standards is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—and his embrace of the policy is a major reason many believe his brand of conservatism is out of step with the national mood.

The irony in this trend is that key features of Common Core—including tougher standards, state-drawn curricula and teacher accountability—reflect conservative values. (So much so that the American Federation of Teachers, the influential union, is now backing away from the policy.) But political winds can blow away policy convictions when they’re inconvenient. Just ask Barack Obama. He spent much of his presidential campaign attacking No Child Left Behind, the national education standards championed by George W. Bush. Once he entered the Oval Office, Obama set about promoting his own set of national standards.

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