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Anti-tax pledge author: Romney failed to connect

By David Skolnick

Sunday, November 18, 2012

By David Skolnick


Noted conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist said there are several likely reasons Republican Mitt Romney lost the presidential election, but he needs more time to determine the real causes for the defeat.

“We need to wait for the autopsy and see all of the organs,” Norquist, born in Sharon, Pa., told The Vindicator in an exclusive interview. “Some say turnout. Some say messaging.”

But a CBS News exit poll question stood out for Norquist.

The question was about which presidential candidate, Romney or Democratic incumbent Barack Obama, “cares about people like me.” Obama won 81 to 18 percent.

“That’s the election right there,” Norquist said. Romney “didn’t connect” with voters.

Norquist founded Americans for Tax Reform, a 27-year-old organization best known for asking politicians to pledge they will oppose any tax increase.

In this most-recent election, ATR spent $26 million, including $2.1 million in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District.

The ads were critical of Charlie Wilson, a former two-term House member defeated in 2010 and this past election, by Republican Bill Johnson.

Johnson is an “important pro-taxpayer guy who ran against a guy who wants to raise taxes,” Norquist said.

Johnson said he and Norquist “have some concepts in common. He believes in the American people keeping more of what they earn and business owners keeping more of what they earn. Philosophically, he’s on the same page” as me regarding taxes.

But U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, said the influence Norquist and the ATR pledge have over House Republicans is an impediment to getting meaningful legislation approved to move the country forward.

Norquist was born Oct. 19, 1956, in Sharon, Pa., and lived in Sharpsville, before his family moved from the area. He was under 2 when his family relocated to Athens, Ga., because of his father’s work for Westinghouse. When his father, Warren, became an executive with Polaroid, the family moved to Weston, Mass., a Boston suburb, where Norquist grew up.

His lone memory of Mercer County is of a live monkey that used to be at the back of the former Woolworth’s in downtown Sharon. Norquist said he asked his family if his recollection of the monkey was accurate and was told it was.

Though Norquist has driven past the Sharon area several times, he’s never visited.

“But I’m attached to Sharon,” he said. “It’s on my passport and all that cool stuff. I have a wonderful affinity for the area even though I haven’t been back there.”

Romney’s failure to win the presidency and the Republicans inability to gain control of the U.S. Senate are “disappointing,” Norquist said. But the 2006 and 2008 Democratic wave elections were far worse, he said.

“We kept the House” in this election, Norquist said. “In 2012, all we did was solidify the status quo of 2010. It’s not like 2006 or 2008. Those were devastating losses.”

Norquist raised some eyebrows when he said Monday on CBS that Obama’s successful campaign strategy was “he was not Romney and that Romney was a poopy-head and you should vote against Romney.”

Norquist said he was tempted to use a stronger term, but settled on poopy-head.

“It was a great comment,” he said in retrospect. Obama “didn’t run on his stellar performance for four years. He smeared his opponent.”