Grover Norquist sizes up 2016 presidential primary

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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When it comes to 2016, conservative activist Grover Norquist has seven Republicans in mind.

All of them are governors.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Daily Caller, Norquist listed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as potentially serious contenders in 2016.

“The following guys could raise the money and have governed well enough to be able to straight-faced say, ‘I’m running for president and you should consider me as a Reagan Republican,’” Norquist, the leader of Americans for Tax Reform, predicted.

The Christie argument, according to Norquist: “Northeastern national candidate would have name ID, and in a blue state, swam against the current enough to convince most people, I think, that his heart is with the Reagan Republican guys.”

Summing up the argument for Walker, he said: “Tough as nails, good guy, tax cutter.”

Norquist cited Walker’s success in changing labor laws and pushing through new school choice and concealed carry laws.

As for the current Texas governor and former 2012 candidate, Norquist said: “Perry, looking to run again, will have been governor for 14 years. Can raise money out of Texas, fine governor, governed well. He just needs to be able to demonstrate in a hundred speeches that when he’s not taking painkillers, he’s pretty good at speaking.”

Speaking of the Louisiana governor, he said: “Bobby Jindal turned a blue state into a red state. The changes in the anti-corruption law that he got passed, the tax cuts, the school choice for a half million kids. All sorts of stuff.”

Norquist also pointed out that Jindal might be able to fundraise from Indian-Americans, the wealthiest per capita ethnic group in the country.

As for Jeb Bush, Norquist said he can boast of eight years “as a serious governor” but “the down side is his last name.” He said the Bush name problem is “fixable” if he distances himself from his dad’s history of raising taxes as president. Norquist suggested Bush say something to the effect of, “I love my dad, but he shouldn’t have raised taxes.”

“That’s not so difficult,” Norquist said. “But he hasn’t done it yet.”

Added the conservative activist: “Now watch for Brownback in Kansas and Pence in Indiana. Two of the more recent governors, but phenomenal governors.”

There are also a host of GOP senators expected to consider a potential run — Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, 2012 GOP runner up and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — but Norquist sees them more as potential vice presidential candidates.

“I don’t see a Senate guy, but if a Senate guy runs, he’s running for vice president,” he said.

Norquist predicted the “Republican field in ’16 will be very different from the one in ’12.” Norquist suggested that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Texas Gov. Rick Perry were the only three serious candidates in 2012.

“The one in ’12 had three governors — three people who were actually running for president, who could credibly run for president as governors — and then seven people who were trying to sell books, become a radio talk-show host, or create the libertarian wing of the modern Republican Party,” he said. “But they weren’t running for president.”

Norquist said the number of non-serious presidential candidates in the 2012 race made things difficult for the three governors.

“It’s tough to have three people — the former governor of Massachusetts, former governor of Minnesota and the former governor of Texas — explain their positions to the American people when there are seven other people on stage throwing marbles at their feet,” he said.

“This time, you’ll have five or six governors,” Norquist added. “And I think that crowds out Tom Tancredo running in order to give speeches about immigration.”

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