Huckabee Signs His Own Tax Pledge, Not Norquist's
Mike Huckabee announced Thursday that he will not sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge or any other from an outside group, instead opting to write a comprehensive version of his own — a move that would usually draw venom from Norquist and the group he founded, Americans for Tax Reform.
But Norquist tells RealClearPolitics that Huckabee in fact did sign his anti-tax pledge.
In an email, Norquist reasoned that Huckabee’s pledge, which the presidential candidate posted to his website, counts as having signed the ATR promise because it uses the “same wording, signed, in writing” and is “public, non-retractable.”
“George W. Bush's pledge was similar,” Norquist said. “On his letterhead.”
Norquist and a spokesman for Huckabee both confirmed that the former Arkansas governor and the anti-tax advocate spoke Thursday morning and reached an understanding Huckabee’s do-it-yourself version of the pledge.
“They came to an agreement,” said Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the former Fox News host. “The governor told him what he was looking to do, and Grover was fine with that.”
Norquist agreed: “We are cool.”
But there seems to be some space between the camps regarding the particulars of that agreement. Gidley insisted Huckabee has not signed any pledge to ATR, as Norquist said, even though the language in Huckabee’s guarantee not to raise taxes aligns with the one pushed by Norquist’s group.
“The governor's pledge is to the American people,” Gidley said. “Governor Huckabee agrees with this part of ATR's platform in the sense that governor pledges to oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
John Kartch, a spokesman for ATR, said: “The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is, and has always been, a commitment to the American people. No difference."
Indeed, Huckabee’s pledge, which he tweeted will be “the only pledge I sign as a candidate for president,” does say he will “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” The 17-point list of campaign promises also vows to “kill Common Core,” “fight for term limits,” and “support a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution,” among other items.
The anti-tax pledge has stood for many election cycles as a litmus test for Republican candidates, with ATR as its steward. By technically forgoing the pledge, Huckabee might be looking to curry favor with voters who detest the influence of outside groups in elections — while maintaining the benefit of ATR’s support.
Fellow former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida also decided he will not sign any pledges as a presidential candidate, but he has also insisted he will not make an anti-tax commitment of any kind.
That decision drew harsh criticism from Norquist, who told RealClearPolitics earlier this month that Bush has "opened up a question mark, where for most Republicans there would be none.”
Other conservatives have also piled on, such as when Bush appeared at a National Review event in Washington earlier this month.
"Is there any circumstance in which you would take that pledge?" National Review Editor Rich Lowry pressed.
“No,” Bush replied.
After a few more minutes of the Bush reciting his record on taxes, Lowry tried again: "So, will you promise not to raise taxes?" It was to no avail.
Huckabee, by contrast, received only praise from Norquist when he announced his own non-pledge policy Thursday. But Norquist and ATR nevertheless say they scored a point for their team.
“Governor Huckabee has pledged in writing to the American people that he will oppose and veto any and all tax increases,” Norquist said in a statement posted to the group’s website. “His public commitment makes it clear that he will fight to reform government to cost less rather than paper-over and continue past failures with higher taxes."