On top of not signing the pledge, he wouldn’t flat-out answer if he’d promise not to raise taxes…
Jeb Bush wanted to talk about tax reform, which he hopes to make central to his presidential bid.
But, at a National Review summit in Washington on Thursday, the discussion pivoted to Bush’s refusal to sign Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.
“Is there any circumstance in which you would take that pledge?” asked National Review Editor Rich Lowry.
“No,” Bush said firmly — and began, as he does when he is asked this question, to lay out his record: as Florida governor, he reminded Lowry, he cut taxes every year.
“My record is clear,” Bush concluded. “In fact, my record is as good or better than any.”
But Lowry pressed Bush on the pledge. “So, it’s a principled opposition to pledges of that sort?”
“Yeah,” Bush said.
“So, will you promise not to raise taxes?” Lowry tried, to laughter from the crowd.
This week, Sen. Marco Rubio signed the pledge as a presidential candidate, as he has during previous campaigns. Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, too, have signed on the dotted line.
The pledge has its roots in 1986, and during the 1988 presidential election, every Republican candidate except Bob Dole signed it. Since then, it has gained influence as a litmus test for Republicans, a dynamic apparently not on the wane in this election cycle.
“Those who refuse to take the pledge are, rightly, seen as suspect to Republican primary voters,” said one senior Republican operative.
But Bush will not sign this pledge — or any other, for that matter.
“If Gov. Bush decides to move forward, he will not sign any pledges circulated by lobbying groups,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told CNN earlier this year.
Bush might be the sole Republican with the inherent stature and name recognition to be able to do this. He has a compelling personal reason, too: After Jeb Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush, signed the pledge in 1988 and promised “no new taxes” as a candidate, he raised taxes as president — and suffered the consequences when he was booted from office after one term.