John Huntsman turned down the Grover Norquist pledge to never raise taxes which did surprise me. Less surprising is the news that Pawlenty is standing on the fence about it:
It's Grover time in the GOP, which has nothing to do with "Sesame Street" and everything to do with Jon Huntsman's effort to distinguish himself from the other two BWFGs (bland, white former governors) in the Republican presidential race.
This is the season in which the bearded, Harvard-trained ayatollah of the anti-tax movement, Grover Norquist, demands (almost always successfully) that candidates sign a document pledging to oppose any tax increase of any kind. The founder and leader of the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist is clever, meticulous and persistent -- and the leading enforcer and symbol of Republican tax-cutting orthodoxy. Most Republican presidential contenders have signed since Norquist started demanding that they do so back in 1988.
Tim Pawlenty signed a Norquist-style pledge when he was governor of Minnesota, but has not signed the official one yet this year. "I expect that he will," Norquist said, adding "I expect that they ALL will."
Maybe not. "We haven't said either way," said Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant.
And Huntsman told reporters Tuesday that he would not sign Norquist's or any other pledge this year -- on abortion, gay rights or any other topic.
"First of all, I don't sign pledges," he told reporters after announcing his candidacy near the Statue of Liberty. "I was asked to sign a pledge when I ran for governor in 2004, and I didn't. And I got attacked because I didn't. And then we went around and ended up cutting and reforming taxes at record levels [and] I never heard anything in the aftermath of our work. My take on all of this is, your record should say everything about where you are and where you're going. I don't need to sign a pledge."
I imagine Pawlenty will sign the pledge as soon as Grover turns up the heat on him, but Huntsman won't for sure now. However, on Fineman's report I find one terrible flaw:
But there are signs that his grip on the Party may be weakening a bit, which presents an opening for Huntsman and a dilemma for Tim Pawlenty.
Sorry Howard, I don't buy that for one second. Grover was once considered a radical Tea Party type when he first started his activism with Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff and the College Republicans thirty years ago, but today, tax cuts and never raising taxes is the mantra of Conservatives and the GOP. There's little doubt about his strength in their party.