Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist has a blunt message for anyone already angling for the GOPs presidential nomination in 2012: Focus your energies on anything but next years midterm elections at your own risk.
Norquist, one of the most influential voices in the modern conservative movement, says he will be keeping a close eye on the activities of potential candidates over the next year and will be sure to tell Republican voters whos a team player and whos out for themselves.
Were going to put together a list of all the people thinking of running for president and ... give assignments to each of the would-be presidential candidates. For instance, if the former governor of Arkansas [Mike Huckabee] would like to run and be thought of as a serious candidate he better win that Senate seat in Arkansas [held by Democrat Blanche Lincoln]. He can raise the money for it, he can help turn it around. If hes not willing to do that for the party, why should we spend any time thinking about him? Norquist said during an interview with Roll Call reporters and editors on Friday.
If former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani wants to run [in 2012], then he should either run for governor himself [in 2010] or find somebody, he added.
Norquist argued that while all the presumptive candidates for the Republican nomination have demonstrated an ability to look out for themselves financially and politically, he and other conservatives will be looking for a candidate who has also demonstrated a commitment to building both the conservative movement and the GOP.
These guys can do this stuff in their own districts and states, he said. What were going to be putting out is how many people have they campaigned for ... what have they done for the party? They will all do unending stuff for themselves. Thats never a question. The question is, What will they do to help the broader movement? I think any of these guys running for president who focuses on anything other than 2010 should be horse-whipped.
After 2010 you can have a polite conversation about who should be president in 2012, Norquist continued. But until then the only thing youre doing is sucking oxygen out of the room. And youre not being helpful. If youre the governor of Indiana and you want to be presidential, dont send me a press release about how you didnt raise taxes. Beat [Sen.] Evan Bayh [D-Ind.]. Then Id say, Hey, theres a guy to talk to.
But Norquist also had an equally strong message for conservative activists warning that they should not look to enforce ideological purity tests on candidates but rather support the most Reaganite person who has a legitimate chance of winning the race.
My view is every Republican should wish for the most Reaganite candidate that can win the general in your state, which is different in Maine than in Texas. The most Reaganite candidate who can win in the general thats who you want. And thats going to be a different person in Connecticut than in Nevada. Were not going to throw away the more electable guy than the less electable guy if the difference is 75 and 70 on some sort of vote rating, Norquist said.
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