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Jeb Bush's big weakness on education might not really matter

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Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Iowa Republicans have plenty of concerns about Jeb Bush, but his support for Common Core isn't one of them, a focus group of likely caucus-goers conducted this week by Bloomberg Politics and consulting firm Purple Strategies found.

When the participants were asked, "Is there anyone in this room a, who thinks Common Core is important, and b, who knows about Jeb Bush's position and is bothered by it?", there was a moment of silence — and then two participants admitted they didn't really understand what the question was about.

"What is Common Core? I guess I don't understand it," one participant said as others nodded along:

A group of 10 people is hardly decisive evidence, and the conventional wisdom is still that Common Core is a serious problem for Bush. Republican insiders in Iowa and New Hampshire told Politico they think Common Core is Bush's biggest issue in the early primaries and caucuses.

But the focus group suggests that some Iowans might not care that much, or don't know enough about the standards to care. And that's not a complete surprise. Nationally, a large number of Republicans — in a national poll in February, 42 percent — said they've heard little to nothing about the standards. (And the more people said they knew about Common Core in the same poll, the less they actually did know.)

An Iowa poll in February from the Des Moines Register found that the majority of Iowa adults, including a majority of Republicans, support the Common Core. The standards were more unpopular than popular with the Tea Party in the state, but even 43 percent of self-described Tea Partiers in Iowa support them.

Instead, the focus group participants highlighted other issues for Bush —his family name and, relatedly, his responses to questions about whether he still supports the Iraq War.