TAMPA---Grover Norquist, the guru of the anti-tax movement, says Mitt Romney as president would work with congressional conservatives to take the government on a historic swing to the right.
Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform and the man behind the movement demanding that GOP candidates and officeholders take a pledge not to vote for tax hikes. He told me Monday that as the November election approaches, more and more Americans will focus on the fact that there will be automatic tax increases at year's end unless the president and Congress take action to stop them. This will in turn cause Congress and whomever is elected the next president to, at minimum, enact a temporary extension of the current lower tax rates, Norquist predicts. "The tax issue will move more front and center," Norquist says. "...The closer you get, the more real it is."
This is one factor--fear of a tax increase--that will turn the election toward Republican challenger Romney, according to Norquist.
Norquist adds that if Romney wins and has a Republican-controlled Congress, those tax cuts will probably be extended for a full year while Congress works to pass a conservative budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who Romney has chosen as his vice-presidential running mate. This budget includes many cuts in social programs and an overhaul of Medicare.
The agenda would be "congressional driven," Norquist says, just as it was when Democrats controlled the House and Senate. And he says Romney would be satisfied with that because he could then argue that he "managed us out of the crisis."
He adds that if President Obama wins and the GOP has control of Congress, there's a good chance that Obama will accommodate himself to conservative legislation in order to prevent a total political stalemate in the capital.
Obama's biggest goal, Norquist says, will be to "try to solidify Obamacare as his legacy," a reference to the massive overhaul of the healthcare system that Obama and the Democrats pushed through Congress. Norquist also predicts that if Obama is re-elected, he will focus on foreign affairs, where he has more latitude than he does on domestic issues, and on executive orders, which he can issue unilaterally.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and Congress for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," on usnews.com, and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.