(CNSNews.com) - Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative taxpayer group, regularly asks Republican politicians to sign a pledge not to raise taxes. Three Republican presidential candidates have not signed the pledge, which one strategist said might hurt them during the primaries.
"I worked on Bob Dole's campaign in 1988 and he didn't sign and it killed his campaign in the final week," David Johnson, a Republican strategist and president of Strategic Vision. "That's how the first President Bush was able to turn around and win the New Hampshire primary."
New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have not signed the pledge.
"It carries a lot of weight in New Hampshire and it's something that can be used very effectively against a candidate, especially if it's a tight race as we're seeing in the polling right now," said Johnson.
But Giuliani said, "You take one pledge as president of the United States. It's to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The rest of it is a statement of intentions."
"The reality is nobody has to worry about whether I'm going to lower taxes, because I did it in a place that was harder to do it than in Washington," said Giuliani on Fox News in October.
"All the rest of them have never done it. So they got to take pledges. I have a record. In fact, that's sort of my distinction with most of the rest of the candidates. I actually have results," he added.
In April, on CNBC, McCain's spokesman Douglas Holtz-Eakin said the senator "has never voted for increasing taxes in a way that is detrimental to the U.S. economy. He understands that marginal tax rates are important for entrepreneurs and that low capital gains and dividends tax rates are important for savers and investors."
"He's pledged to make them permanently low,' said Holtz-Eakin. "And he doesn't need to sign a piece of paper to keep that pledge. He has a strong track record and he's going to make sure America keeps growing."
Karen Hanretty, Fred Thompson's spokeswoman, said "Fred Thompson's record of cutting taxes and pushing for reform speaks for itself," according to the newspaper The Hill. "This is the approach he will take as president. He is bound by that principle and does not make a practice of signing pledges."
"They are kind of caught in a Catch-22," Johnson said. "They know that this is a way to win the New Hampshire primary, but they don't want to go on record saying they will never raise taxes and then, if they're nominated and elected, have to go back on that pledge and have it used against them like the first President Bush did with his famous 'no new taxes.'"
"I think it's going to hurt these candidates in New Hampshire," said Johnson. "New Hampshire is a very anti-tax state."
"Voters, traditionally when the economy is bad, go for candidates who promise not to raise taxes and who promise to lower taxes," he said, noting that by refusing to sign the pledge, the three candidates are creating a situation that could play well for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
But John Kartch, communications director for Americans for Tax Reform, said he remained hopeful about the candidates' commitment to not raise taxes.
"We remain hopeful that they will sign," he told Cybercast News Service. "Romney and Huckabee have signed the pledge. McCain has taken and honored his pledge as a member of the Senate and as a candidate for president in 2000. Giuliani has made a strong public statement that he would never raise taxes."
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