Monday, July 18, 2011

To pledge, or not to pledge, that is the question

largeimage_6cfb2b2894ad870085f4109f503c0b7d_GOPWith pledges spreading like the flu on the campaign trail, candidates this year are being asked — in some cases, pressured — to profess their fealty to a whole host of positions: supporting marriage, opposing taxes, reducing the deficit, fighting abortion and gay rights and more.

There's a 14-point "marriage vow," a three-pronged "cut, cap and balance" declaration on the national debt, a four-point "pro-life leadership presidential pledge" and a deficit-reduction promise tied to the "Lean Six Sigma" method of reducing wasteful spending.

While Democrats at times get asked to sign pledges, the phenomenon appears to be far more pronounced among Republicans. But interest groups also try to pin down candidates of both parties by asking them to fill out questionnaires on important issues. And the candidates' answers can come back to haunt them, just as do broken pledges.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made a pledge not to pledge. "I don't sign pledges — other than the Pledge of Allegiance and a pledge to my wife," Huntsman said recently.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who's making a big play for the caucus votes of social conservatives in leadoff Iowa, is at the other end of the spectrum. She's taken a shine to pledges on marriage, abortion, taxes and other issues, and has laid into her competition for holding back at times. On Monday, she planned to sign the "cut, cap and balance" pledge during a campaign stop in South Carolina, one of a handful of early voting states in the primary process.

When former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who's less invested in Iowa, refused to adopt the Susan B. Anthony List's anti-abortion pledge, Bachmann's campaign called it a "distressing" move and said it raised questions about his "leadership and commitment to ending the practice of abortion."

To pledge, or not to pledge…candidates in this presidential campaign are forced to make a choice.


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