With Romney cruising unopposed toward the Republican nomination, the general election season has now begun in earnest. Romney has decided to begin his General Election campaign with a speech on a somewhat surprising subject: education. As the New York Times reports, Romney described the failure of American education to provide for minorities as “the civil rights issue of our era” and compared American educational performance to that of a third-world country. Parental choice, teacher accountability, and an increase in charter schools, Romney argues, provide the best chance at improving our education system.Thus far, economic issues have overshadowed educational ones for both candidates, but Romney has honed in on the former in some campaign speeches. This shouldn’t be a surprise: Education is one of the issues where the national consensus has been moving the GOP’s way for some time. Charter schools, voucher programs, and school choice are no longer just Republican talking points; they’re cornerstones of the growing bipartisan educational reform movement. This is why Romney’s move to highlight education reform makes sense.Sensible as it is, however, he’ll soon find that turning the education issue to his advantage in the election is easier said than done. The Democrats have already been steadily moving toward old GOP ideas on education, and Obama has embraced them more readily than most, as the Times notes. The closer the president moves to Romney’s position, the more difficult it will be for him to distinguish himself from his opponent on education policy.Nevertheless, the Democrats remain vulnerable on education. Teacher unions are unpopular, bureaucracies are unpopular, and national dissatisfaction with the educational system remains high. Democrats will find it hard to buck their status quo record, as well as their union supporters. Republicans, meanwhile, are on the popular side of the issue. Parental choice is a winner; generally in American politics the side advocating individual freedom has the high ground.For Romney, this is a rare issue that both energizes the conservative base of the Republican Party and reaches out toward the center ground in an inclusive way (the biggest victims of the current public school mess are minorities and the poor). The ability of the campaign to come up with solid policy ideas and exploit the political opening education offers will be an important test of both the policy and the political skills of the GOP hopeful.