Karl Rove says Jeb Bush’s support for Common Core education standards will be the biggest obstacle he faces as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination.

"Common Core is, I think, the biggest challenge he faces,” Rove said Tuesday on the Fox News show "America’s Newsroom." “The question is, how can he defend high academic standards, which he believes in, when it has been conflated with the Obama administration.”

Rove, formerly the top adviser to Bush’s brother, President George W. Bush, said Common Core was originally a Republican idea put forth by Bill Bennett, the secretary of Education under President Reagan who was later appointed to a post in the administration of President George H.W. Bush.

But Rove said President Obama has since grasped onto it, making it toxic to Republican voters.

“The Obama administration has gotten involved in this and some conservatives believe the administration is trying to push those [standards] down the throat of state and local governments,” Rove said. “So Jeb's answer on how he defends this is going to have an impact on his standing with conservatives."

Common Core, a set of nationalized education standards that has been adopted by 43 states, is deeply unpopular among many in the GOP.

Bush has made education reform the centerpiece of his work as governor of Florida and since leaving office, and some of his views on education are a rallying point for Republicans. Bush is a strong advocate for charter schools and school voucher programs, and he counts Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as a strong ally on those matters.



Education is low on most voter's list of concerns, but critics of Bush have cited his support for Common Core and his stance on immigration reform as evidence he’ll have a hard time rallying the conservative voters who turn out for primaries and caucuses in early-voting states.

Bush has indicated he doesn’t intend to bend from his centrist positions on immigration or education in 2016, even if it costs him support with grassroots conservatives.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), another potential GOP contender, has said Common Core will sink Bush in the Republican primaries.

“For Jeb Bush to run in the primary will be very, very difficult because if you’re going to be for a national curriculum and for Common Core and for No Child Left Behind, this accumulation of power in Washington, that’s not very popular,” Paul said on Fox News last month.

Still, Bush is near the top and leading Paul in most polls of Republican voters right now.

Rove said the onus is on Bush in “articulating what his vision is, first and foremost, and, secondarily, defending the parts of that vision that might irritate some detractors inside the Republican party."