At the State Theatre debate, Jake Towne stated that he would support abolishing the Department of Education – a position supported by Tea Party activists and 111 Republican incumbents and challengers, including would-be Speaker John Boehner.
To the great disappointment of his conservative base, Charlie Dent declined to support abolishing the Department, but promised to slash its funding if given the opportunity.
But though the base is champing at the bit to end the federal role in education (perhaps they would like universal homeschooling?), cuts in education are among the most hated by the broader electorate – certainly in this Democratic district:
The last time the Republicans made a concerted effort to eliminate the Department of Education in 1995, they ran into a strong public backlash. Polling conducted by Hart Research Associates found that 80 percent of respondents in June 1995 wanted the Department of Education to be maintained, while just 17% wanted it eliminated. With a new New York Times/CBS poll finding that education funding is the last area respondents would like to see spending cuts, it’s no stretch to imagine that a strong majority of Americans still support the Department of Education.
Nevertheless, because there exists widespread support for eliminating the Department of Education in the Republican ranks, the issue could soon come to the forefront in a GOP-controlled Congress. A comprehensive review of the voting records and statements of Republican incumbents and candidates finds that there are 111 GOPers who support shutting down the Department of Education. Though a minority (35 percent) of sitting Republicans are on record supporting elimination, the anti-education bloc will undoubtedly swell in the next Congress due to the 36 new GOP candidates who favor shutting down the Department.
This is likely why Dent tried so hard to keep Jake Towne out of the debates. The conservative policy agenda is deeply unpopular, but with Towne acting as the true right wing standard bearer on fiscal policy, it was inevitable that Dent would have to fess up to some really ugly beliefs to avoid pissing off his core supporters.