Obama is campaigning today in Ohio, where he is giving a speech right now hitting Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan on education. He‘s highlighting Romney’s suggestion that students worried about tuition costs should “shop around” or borrow money from their parents, and slamming the Ryan budget’s cuts to education funding, Head Start, and Pell grants.
This highlights something that has gotten a bit lost: While there’s a ton of discussion about the political implications of the Ryan budget’s Medicare reforms, Dems also view its education cuts as a major target.
Dems see the Ryan plan’s impact on education as absolutely central to their efforts to portray the GOP ticket’s priorities as dangerously out of whack for everyone but the wealthy. It’s also key to Dem hopes of winning over key swing constituencies, such as independents, Latinos and non-college “waitress moms,” and central to firming up support among the “Rising American Electorate,” the Dem coalition of minorities, young voters and unmarried women.
A good window into the thinking of Dem strategists can be found in a poll on the Ryan budget done in July by the Dem firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, whose findings are widely respected by top Dems.
The poll, which tested various messages about the Ryan plan, found that one of the leading voter concerns about the Ryan budget is cuts to education, particularly among key constituencies, and that those cuts raise serious doubts about Romney when voters are told that he supports the Ryan agenda.
Among white non college women, 66 percent say the education cuts raise serious doubts about Romney. Among Latinos the number is 67 percent. Among independents it’s 61 percent.
“There’s a lot the voters don’t like about the Ryan budget, but education is at least as important to voters as the Medicare piece is,” Andrew Baumann, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan, tells me.
“Education is a core concern for middle income and working class voters that gets underestimated,” Baumann continued. “The idea that Romney and Ryan would gut education programs that those voters see as important to pay for more tax cuts for millionaires illustrates whose side they’re on.”
In one way, Dems are fighting an uphill battle, because very few voters actually associate Paul Ryan with the agenda he has proposed. A new Pew poll finds that Ryan’s Medicare voucher scheme remains unpopular, with a plurality opposed to it (49-34), but only 23 percent of those who have heard about it identify it as Ryan’s plan.
And so, as always, the Dem game plan is about persuading swing voters that the Romney/Ryan agenda really would cut taxes disproportionately on the wealthy while slashing services that poor and middle class voters rely upon. The key to making this case is dramatizing as specifically as possible how the Ryan plan would impact real people, and education — not just Medicare — will be central to the argument.