November 26, 2012

Anti-tax crusader Norquist losing his grip on GOP lawmakers

More Republicans are reassessing their resistance to any measure that would increase revenue.

By Doyle McManus

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Norquist isn't buying that strategy. The Republican Party has succeeded for a generation by fighting constantly for lower taxes, he argues. "Republicans who raise taxes do their own brand a great deal of damage," he said.

As for the exit polls that appeared to show a majority of voters Nov. 6 supported Obama's position on taxes, Norquist has a one-word answer: "Wrong." Plenty of other polls, he says, show that people still don't like the idea of taxes going up, he said.

Norquist insists that if Republicans will only hold firm in the coming negotiations, the president will fold, as he did in 2010. Obama "will eventually have to extend the tax cuts as is," he said.

It's no surprise that Norquist isn't embracing a compromise that would raise taxes. His mission in life is to reduce taxes and shrink the federal government. But even he can't ignore the signs that his hold is slipping.

Norquist's power has derived mostly from the threat that he'd expose tax-raisers to their constituents, who would then express their anger at the polls. But that threat seems emptier now because of a handful of Republicans like Scott Rigell.

Last spring, Rigell, a freshman House member from Virginia Beach, Va., decided the pledge didn't make sense any more. He publicly renounced it. He held a series of town halls and interviews in his district explaining his decision.

And on Election Day, he won re-election easily.

Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.

 

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