Feb. 13, 2016

Norquist Warns Candidates

Would-Be Presidents Should Focus on 2010

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist has a blunt message for anyone already angling for the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2012: Focus your energies on anything but next year’s 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 who’s a team player and who’s out for themselves.

“We’re 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 he’s 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 we’re 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. That’s 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 you’re doing is sucking oxygen out of the room. And you’re not being helpful. If you’re the governor of Indiana and you want to be presidential, don’t send me a press release about how you didn’t raise taxes. Beat [Sen.] Evan Bayh [D-Ind.]. Then I’d say, ‘Hey, there’s 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.

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