If you're old enough to remember the 1995 Republican Revolution, one key aspect of the revolution's downfall was education. Republicans proposed to abolish the Department of Education, and Democrats used this issue to pummel the GOP. Eventually, wiser heads within the party reasoned that it wasn't worth absorbing so much political pain over a department that accounts for just a tiny fraction of the federal budget. They quickly backed off the issue, and by 2000 nominated a candidate who talking about education all the time, dramatically narrowing the opinion gap on the issue between the parties.
Now, on the cusp of another Republican Revolution, the party is nominating a bunch of candidates who don't remember 1995 and are promising to abolish the department again:
In search of an issue that will stop independent voters from rushing to the GOP, Democratic congressional candidates are attacking Republicans for wanting to abolish the Education Department and cut funding for federal student loans. ...
In more than three dozen Senate and House races, Democrats are seizing upon the issue, highlighting it in television advertisements and on the stump, to try to cast the Republicans as far outside the political mainstream.
Eliminating the Education Department has been a staple of the small-government tea party agenda this year, and a number of Republican candidates endorsed the idea during primary battles.
The article details that the Republican candidates facing this attack are furiously backtracking.
Bennet's campaign aired a 60-second ad with footage, obtained by a Democratic tracker, of Buck saying, "We don't need a Department of Education," and, "I don't think our Founding Fathers ever intended for the federal government to have student loans."
Buck spokesman Owen Loftus called Bennet's ad an "outlandish attack" and said it takes Buck's comments out of context. He said Buck supports federal student loans and does not want to eliminate the Education Department. Rather, Loftus said, Buck wants to reallocate the department's funds to state and municipal governments.
See, he doesn't want to eliminate the department! He just wants to, um, make it cease to exist.
During the last Republican Revolution, the true believers began to abandon their radical goals only after getting their heads bashed in by Bill Clinton. This time, the backtracking is occuring before the election. By the time he gets to Washington, if he wins, Buck (and a lot of other Tea party candidates) are going to be shifting his focus from abolishing popular departments to cutting tax rates for upper-income Americans.