In fact, Romney defended Bush’s motives:
And with regards to No Child Left Behind, the right answer there — President Bush stood up and said, you know what? The teachers unions don’t want school choice, I want school choice to see who’s succeeding and failing.
He was right to fight for that. There are things that should be changed in the law, but we have to stand up to the federal teachers unions and put the kids first and the unions behind.
It was Ron Paul, and then an audience question, which brought Santorum‘s uncomfortable response on NCLB:
Well, you know what? I supported No Child Left Behind. I supported it. It was the principal priority of President Bush to try to take on a failing education system and try to impose some sort of testing regime that would be able to quantify how well we’re doing with respect to education.
I have to admit, I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake.
(BOOING) You know, politics is a team sport, folks. And sometimes you’ve got to rally together and do something. And in this case, you know, I thought testing was — and finding out how bad the problem was wasn’t a bad idea.
What was a bad idea was all the money that was put out there, and that, in fact, was a huge problem. I admit the mistake and I will not make that mistake again. You have someone who is committed.
Post-debate, Romney has mocked Santorum‘s “team player” line to attack Santorum‘s alleged strength, courage of conviction.
“Courage” was the one word Santorum used to describe himself at the end of the debate, even after acknowledging that he voted against principle on NCLB.
So don’t blame Romney for Santorum‘s problem, it was a self-inflicted wound.
Nonetheless, it is fascinating to watch Romney’s prior spirited embrace of NCLB in 2008, Mitt Romney Strongly Supported No Child Left Behind: