- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s lawsuit Wednesday challenging the federal Common Core education curriculum makes him the latest GOP presidential hopeful to use the dog days of August to recalibrate himself toward the conservative voters who will decide the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.

Mr. Jindal, who had embraced the Common Core in 2010, this week said he now sees it as another example of an overbearing federal government.

His about-face follows that of another potential 2016 candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who has reversed course on his signature immigration bill, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has dialed down his previous stance that Congress should phase out all foreign assistance, including to Israel.


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Analysts said the changes are designed to bring the would-be candidates in line with an ever-growing litmus test list for Republican primary voters.

“They are adapting to new GOP winds and trying to put themselves in the strongest possible position,” said Darrell M. West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institute. “This means getting tough on the Common Core, which conservatives hate. It also means becoming more negative on comprehensive immigration reform and making sure they are supportive of Israel.”

“Things have changed substantially in domestic and foreign policy, so candidates have to move with the times and make sure their views are in sync with likely primary voters,” he said. “They need to do this now so it doesn’t seem as opportunistic to voters in 2016. By then, they can say they have held certain positions for several years.”


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Strategically speaking, Mark McKinnon, a GOP strategist, said the summer is a good time to move on issues. “If you’re going to flip-flop in politics, best to do it early and off-Broadway,” Mr. McKinnon said.

Candidates of all stripes have done the pre-primary flip-flop, and often on major heartfelt stances.

Mitt Romney went from being pro-choice as a candidate for governor of Massachusetts to being pro-life ahead of his 2008 and 2012 bids for the GOP presidential nomination.

And then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq war in 2002 before running against it in the 2008 Democratic primary.

Sometimes the flip-flops can be seen coming months, or even years, ahead of time.

In Mr. Jindal’s case, he had been signaling an increasing aversion to the Common Core, under pressure from conservative and tea party activists in his state.

On Wednesday, Mr. Jindal filed a lawsuit that accused the Obama administration of using federal grants and waivers to illegally coerce states into adopting the standards, which 44 states and the District of Columbia have adopted.

“Common Core is the latest effort by big government disciples to strip away state rights and put Washington, D.C., in control of everything,” Mr. Jindal said. “What started out as an innovative idea to create a set of baseline standards that could be ‘voluntarily’ used by the states has turned into a scheme by the federal government to nationalize curriculum.”

The announcement came a day after Mr. Rubio made his boldest stance yet on immigration, sending President Obama a letter saying there is “no realistic path forward on comprehensive [immigration] reform for the foreseeable future” — essentially declaring his own legislation dead.

Instead, he said that Congress should take a piecemeal approach to the problem, starting with stemming the flow of illegal immigrants into the country.

Only then, Mr. Rubio said, will there be the political will to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants already living here.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the war in Gaza, which has fueled a strong response from the party’s deep pool of pro-Israel voices, Mr. Paul has tried to reassure voters that he has never supported cutting aid to Israel, despite previous statements to the contrary.

While opponents use flip-flops to attack candidates, Michael McKenna, a GOP consultant, said they also show the political process is working.

“These shifts are part of what makes popular sovereignty so great — those who want to get elected have to (ultimately) express the will of the majority of the electorate, or they don’t get elected,” Mr. McKenna said in an email. “And usually people like to do it when not too many folks are watching the evolution. Because it can get misconstrued as being indecisive or, worse, pandering.”