As we discussed on Friday, an important fight is brewing over student loan interest rates, with policymakers facing a July deadline before rates for federal Direct Stafford Loans double. If Congress doesn't act, more than 7.4 million students will face, on average, an additional $1,000 in debt.
The Obama White House and congressional Democrats are eager to keep rates where they are, while congressional Republicans want the lower rates to expire in two months. Yesterday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney announced he agrees with ... the left. Here's the video, which The Ed Show aired last night.
For those who can't watch clips online, Romney said:
"...I fully support the effort to extend the low interest rate on student loans. There was some concern that that would expire halfway through the year, and I support extending the temporary relief on interest rates."
In the short term, this may give Dems an additional edge in the legislative fight -- it's bound to be at least a little helpful to have the Republican presidential candidate endorse the Democratic position.
But in the bigger picture, we have another clear example of Romney shaking the Etch A Sketch as he transitions to the general-election phase of the campaign. Last week, it was immigration policy, and this week, it's student loans.
In both cases, however, Romney is really only giving the appearance of moderation.
On immigration, the Romney campaign tried to put some distance between the former governor and his right-wing immigration advisor, Kris Kobach, and leak word that Romney doesn't really believe his own anti-immigrant rhetoric, but his policy agenda remained unchanged.
On student loans, Romney is now on board with Obama's plan to keep interest rates at their current level, but the Republican's almost-strident opposition to helping Americans afford college tuition hasn't budged.
Let's not forget that it was just last month when Romney, still pandering to his party's far-right base, explained that families worried about affording college tuition should expect no help from a Romney administration. Indeed, the former governor said students should shop around for colleges with the best rates, because Americans will be on their own.
What's more, Romney also endorsed Paul Ryan's House Republican budget plan, which, among other things, makes deep cuts to Pell Grants (and, incidentally, would also allow student loan interest rates to double).
The presumptive GOP presidential nominee is, in other words, playing a little game: moving to the extreme in the primaries, then pivoting to a faux centrism, hoping reporters and voters will be impressed. He's shaking the Etch A Sketch, but only enough to give the appearance of moderation.
Meanwhile, American Bridge, a Democratic-aligned super PAC, released this video this morning, targeting Romney on education policy.