Washington Times: Presidential candidates pick and choose pledges

This post first appeared online at The Washington Times on July 1, 2011.

Presidential candidates pick and choose pledges
by Kerry Picket

Political candidates are often sent numerous questionnaires from organizations, so grassroots activists involved in particular groups can gage where candidates stand on current issues. Some organizations, depending on their tax status, use questionnaires to figure out which candidate to endorse during a primary season. However, organizations like Americans for Tax Reform (ATR)  and the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) ask candidates to sign issue pledges.

The ATR tax payer protection pledge, established almost 25 years ago, is composed of few sentences and are formatted for candidates running for: U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Governor, State Legislator, and President. According to ATR’s website:

ATR asks every candidate for elected office on the state and federal level to make a written commitment to their constituents to “oppose and vote against tax increases.”

“All the Republican candidates for president have either signed the pledge or told me they intend to [sign it], with the exception of Huntsman. Huntsman’s staff has told the press he is not signing any pledges. However, they’ve also asked to come and meet with me about stuff in general,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, to me on Thursday.

Mr. Norquist also made a point to say that some presidential candidates who have yet to sign may want to place their John Hancock’s on to the ATR pledge at an official event as opposed to a closed meeting.

As for John Huntsman, Mr. Norquist said, “I will certainly make the case that he should take the pledge and that the taxpayer’s protection pledge is different from other questionnaires and so on.” 

The SBA List presidential candidates’s pledge is relatively newer than the ATR pledge. It calls upon the candidates to pledge to only nominate Constitutional originalist Supreme Court and federal judges who do not legislate from the bench and only make pro-life appointments in relevant cabinet positions among other promises within the document. 

The SBA List boasts five Republican presidential candidates Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ron Paul, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum as signers of their pledge. 

However, SBA List announced Thursday that former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman refused to sign the SBA pledge.  SBA List sent out a statement remarking:

It is extremely disappointing to see another candidate who is running on a pro-life message refuse to sign the promise to voters that he will act as a leader for our movement if elected to the White House,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser.

Huntsman came out publically not long after announcing his candidacy to say that he does “not sign pledges,” an explanation that is not sitting well with pro-life Americans.

“In order to become President of the United States one has to take the pledge of all pledges: the Presidential oath of office,” Dannenfelser explained.  “So really, Huntsman does take pledges, just not the kind which address specific issues he will face if elected President.”

In addition to Huntsman, Governor Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, and Governor Gary Johnson have also refused to sign the pledge.

Some may argue that social conservatism is being pushed on the back burner in lieu of the stressful economic circumstances that makes President Obama look terribly weak in 2012. However, the SBA list pledge is likely facing obstacles due to it being newer than other pledges. In fact, the recently conservative heralded cut, cap, and balance pledge which asks candidates to help pass a Constitutional balance budget amendment currently has six presidential candidates who have signed.

Mr. Huntsman is not part of the this group. At this point, signing anyone’s pledge may not necessarily help or hurt Governor Huntsman as the Utah Republican is having enough problems trying to create buzz around his campaign from the grassroots level.  

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