For quite a while now, Republican candidates, especially those running for Congress, have been expected to sign "the pledge" -- a promise to Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform that they will not support raising any tax on anyone by any amount for any reason. If tax credits or deductions are to be eliminated, those who sign the pledge are expected to match them with tax cuts of equal value.
It's been remarkably successful, with 236 of 242 House Republicans having signed the pledge. But in 2012, Norquist's influence appears to be waning.
Of the 25 candidates this year promoted by the National Republican Congressional Committee as "Young Guns" and "Contenders" -- the top rungs of a program that highlights promising candidates who are challenging Democrats or running in open seats -- at least a third have indicated they do not plan to sign the pledge authored by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist.
Two of the seven candidates promoted by the NRCC as the "Young Gun Vanguard" -- candidates competing in open seats that are considered Republican-leaning -- also have declined to sign.
It'd be an overstatement to characterize the pledge as a project that's failing. After all, Mitt Romney has already signed his name to Norquist's pledge. What's more, some of the candidates who've refused thus far may yet be pressured into giving Norquist what he wants.
But at least for now, GOP candidates are balking at the pledge in numbers unseen in a long while.
For what it's worth, I don't necessarily see this as evidence of moderation. On the contrary, many, if not all, of those who are rejecting Norquist's project appear to be very much in line with his party's anti-tax orthodoxy. They're balking, not because they intend to support tax increases, but because some are open to trading away tax credits, some don't like taking orders from D.C. lobbying groups, and some are just anti-pledge in general.
Whatever the motivation, policymaking means having to consider competing solutions -- and ruling out ideas before even taking office, as nearly every Republican on Capitol Hill has already done, can't and won't work.