An NBC/Marist poll released Sunday of early presidential primary states suggests that while Common Core remains a divisive issue within the Republican Party, it may not be the destroyer of presidential ambitions it has been forecast as.
The poll surveyed residents of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina on which likely presidential contenders they supported the most, and how certain issues influenced how they viewed candidates.
In the case of Common Core, likely voters were asked whether a candidate’s support for the standards was totally acceptable, mostly acceptable, mostly unacceptable or totally unacceptable. In each of the three states, acceptance of Common Core was higher than hostility among the potential Republican electorate (defined as registered Republicans as well as independents who prefer voting in Republican primaries).
In both New Hampshire and South Carolina, the margin was close, with 47 percent seeing Common Core as acceptable and 46 percent seeing it as mostly or completely unacceptable. In Iowa, the margin was wider, with 56 percent saying Common Core as acceptable and just 36 percent saying it wasn’t.
Among the possible controversial positions a Republican could take, Common Core was actually one of the least toxic. In each state, Republican primary voters were substantially more hostile to a hypothetical candidate who embraced a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, who supported raising taxes on the wealthy or who believed in human-driven climate change. In fact, Republicans were even less accepting of a candidate who opposed gay marriage than they were of a candidate who supported Common Core.
The numbers offer a consolation for Jeb Bush, who announced in December that he was actively exploring a presidential run and was immediately attacked by critics who say his support for Common Core will doom him. Sen. Rand Paul, one of Bush’s many potential rivals, predicted it would be “very very difficult” for Bush to overcome his support for the standards. Conservative writer George Will emphasized that the Core could be Bush’s downfall.
Incidentally, the poll also shows Bush polling well against his potential opposition. He is Republicans’ favorite candidate in New Hampshire with 18 percent support, and he is second place in both Iowa and South Carolina, where he narrowly trails Mike Huckabee and Lindsey Graham, respectively.
Another beneficiary of the poll could be Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is considering a dark horse presidential bid and has slammed Republican hostility to Common Core as an over-blown “hysteria.”
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