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I may have mentioned this before here on the site — I was recently reminded that I’ve been hanging around these parts for nearly three and a half years, matching herpes for both persistence and intrusiveness —but I’ve never forgotten a piece of trivia Ed Gillespie (then Counselor to President Bush) shared with a group of us speechwriters during the 2008 campaign: the single biggest fundraising issue for the RNC during that cycle — the one that could inevitably galvanize conservative checkbooks — was the Law of the Sea Treaty.
Despite the fact that it was virtually unknown to the press and the wider GOP establishment, the underlying issue of surrendering a chunk of national sovereignty lit a fire under the base. It’s forgotten now, but Mike Huckabee’s emphasis on the issue during the pre-primary period was one of the factors that shifted his campaign into high-gear. There was a limit, of course, to how far Huckabee could ride that one issue, but let us not forget that the feelings stirred up during that campaign would ultimately block the treaty’s adoption four years later.
During the recent Ricochet meetup in Charlotte, as talk turned to the possibility of Jeb Bush running for president in 2016, I floated a theory — essentially off the top of my head — that one of Bush’s difficulties might be that opposition to Common Core (which he supports) could play precisely the same role in 2016. Looking at the huge debate that’s erupted in the press this week after Louis C.K. went on an anti-CC tirade on Twitter, I’m only more convinced.
This is precisely the kind of issue that sneaks up on the political class; one that irks everyday Americans down in their bones, but that seems so obviously beneficent to managerial types as to not even merit serious debate (recall Secretary of Education Arne Duncan — usually one of the few sober figures in the Obama Administration — dismissing Common Core criticisms as the clucking of “white suburban moms”).
What do you think? Is Common Core likely to be a sleeper issue in 2016? What other relatively minor issues could you see taking an outsized role in the fight for the GOP nomination.