How Obama’s focus on higher education could help him–and hurt the GOP–in 2012

Since his State of the Union address, President Obama has delivered remarks at three community colleges and three public universities. He’s asked the National Governors Association to increase state funding for higher education, proposed federal incentives for colleges to rein in tuition costs, and talked about how job-skills training helps grow the economy, says Sophie Quinton for the National Journal. Those weren’t campaign speeches; they were policy speeches. But Democrats hope there will be a political payoff from Obama’s attention to college access and affordability. The president’s focus on the issue could help him cast himself as the candidate who supports young people’s aspirations — and provide a stark contrast to his Republican rivals.

“Politically, this is a very good issue for him, because it’s a way to appeal to an important constituency” said Trey Grayson, director of the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. For Republicans, he said, the issue of college affordability is “tricky. There’s a strong libertarian element to the Republican base right now.”

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