A couple of times during last night’s vice presidential debate, candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin departed from their talk of the war, Wall Street, and Main Street to extol the virtues of supporting and investing in education, which Biden called “the engine that’s going to give us the economic growth and competitiveness we need.”

That the candidates managed to mention education even though not a single question addressed the subject provided a bittersweet eulogy for Ed in 08/Strong American Schools, the bipartisan political action committee with the goal of increasing education’s profile in the national election. Ed in 08’s backers stopped pouring money into the campaign last month, far short of the investment that would have made it the wealthiest-ever single-issue PAC.

The Gates and Broad foundations, which had pledged up to $60 million for the cause, say the campaign accomplished its goal after spending only $24 million and doesn’t need any more funding before Election Day. “I think it is clear that we have embedded into the mindset of the campaign that the crisis of our schools is an essential part of the domestic policy program,” Marc Lampkin, executive director of Strong American Schools, told the Puget Sound Business Journal, which broke the story last week. (Alexander Russo of This Week in Education was the first blogger to pick up the story.)

Indeed, the founding members of Chancellor Klein’s Education Equality Project, which John McCain signed onto in August, included a number of Ed in 08 leaders, and last week the Education Equality Project and Ed in 08 released a joint statement asking for the moderators of the remaining debates to ask questions about education. (So far, they haven’t.) And a Strong American Schools spokeswoman told Education Week’s Campaign K-12 blog that both McCain and Obama supported at least part of Ed in 08’s policy agenda.