Grover Norquist has been responsible, more than anyone else, for rewriting the dogma of the Republican Party  (Steve Kroft, 60 Minutes)

Grover Norquist (Slevin)

Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), a taxpayer advocacy group he founded in 1985 at President Reagan’s request. ATR works to limit the size and cost of government and opposes higher taxes at the federal, state, and local levels and supports tax reform that moves towards taxing consumed income one time at one rate.  ATR organizes the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which asks all candidates for federal and state office to commit themselves in writing to the American people to oppose all tax increases. In the 113th Congress, 219 House members and 39 Senators have taken the pledge. On the state level, 14 governors and 1,035 state legislators have taken the pledge.

SLEVIN:  You are credited for helping Newt Gingrich and the GOP in drafting the 1994 “Contract with America” and the GOP winning the majority in the House of Representatives.  Here we are 20 years later with a majority in the House and a newly attained majority in the Senate.  It seems that where the GOP House in 1994 was visionary, bold and conservative, today, the House is mired in division, infighting and muzzled (Establishment vs. Tea Party).  Moreover, it appears that the GOP, at least in the House, has become the “Party of No” and can only unite around repealing ObamaCare, which has exceeded 50 votes and climbing.  Do you agree with the “Party of No” label and do you see any vision or bold conservatism rising out of the House between now and the next election? Or does it, new ideas, even matter at this stage given we have a far-left Democrat in the White House?

Contract with America (Slevin)

NORQUIST:  The modern Democrat party has invested a great deal of effort into creating the myth of the “Party of No.” One remembers that the Republicans wrote and passed a budget in the House each year while the Harry Reid Senate did not even write, never mind pass, a budget for four years in a row.

The present Republican House majority won in 2010 has passed the Ryan Budget plan which reforms welfare programs, and entitlements four times. Democrats have not written or voted for any entitlement reforms. They did add a big entitlement: Obamacare in 2010. The Ryan budget saves $6 billion over ten years and reforms government so that 40 years from now the federal government is consuming 20% of GDP rather than 40% which is what happens without reforms.

Remember the “Do Nothing Congress” that Harry Truman ran against. It passed more than 800 bills. It did nothing he wanted. It passed many good pieces of legislation. The House has passed hundreds of bills that the Democrat Senate refused to even allow to come up for a vote.  Now with a GOP Senate we will be able to have votes—even if only to try and end a Democrat Fillibuster.

SLEVIN: For the benefit of our readers, we’ve met a number of times at the Tallahassee Center Right Coalition group, which you help started.  I believe there are roughly 60 groups in 48 states.  Can you tell us a little about the groups as well as Americans for Tax Reform, how that has influenced and/or sustained the conservative movement?

NORQUIST:  Americans for Tax Reform began the Center Right meeting in Washington D.C., known s the “Wednesday meeting” in the spring of 1993: 22 years ago. Our goal was to stop Hillarycare. It grew within months to a self-conscious center-right coalition working on all issues to first slow down the Democrat initiatives and then work to capture the House and Senate. The group grew from 20 in the beginning to 150 today.  Each meeting runs 90 minutes with 30 three-minute presentations by participants. People talk about what they are doing. Not what they are feeling or what bothers them.  The meeting is about building the coalition, winning ground, and advancing liberty.

After a few years folks in the states began to suggest they could run similar meetings and we now have more than 60 meetings in 45 states. California, Ohio, Texas, New Hampshire, Florida, Missouri, Wisconsin and Michigan have more than one meeting.

And there are now 17 overseas meetings. I have twice been to the London meeting with 80 participants. Australia, Japan, Canada, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria,  Brussels, Peru, Chile have meetings.


SLEVIN:  I’m a fiscal conservative who believes that the less government taxes, the less control or interference it has over its citizens.  Therefore, for me and many, cutting taxes is one of the pillars of the conservative movement.  However, it seems that cutting taxes does not resonate or even motivate with a majority of the electorate on Election Day.  Why is that?

NORQUIST:  We build the coalition on “vote-moving” issues. Most Americans oppose higher taxes and prefer lower taxes. But for some Americans their number one issue is protecting the right to home school their children or protect their Second Amendment rights or run their business or professional lives free from Government interference.  For many in the tea party the very idea of over-spending or earmarks became a vote moving issue.

SLEVIN:  Grover, you’re credited for bridging conservatives in supporting George W. Bush’s 2000 run for President as well as you were instrumental helping the Bush Administration draft and pass historic tax cuts.  It seems that these tax cuts have largely been forgotten by many conservatives today. Is GWB getting a bad rap as a moderate President by the Tea Party?  What would be your assessment on the last GOP president and how does that set the table for the upcoming 2016 presidential election?

NORQUIST:  President George W. Bush won two large tax cuts in 2001 And 2003 and the Republican House and Senate in 2012 won a huge victory when these temporary taxes—they were passed in reconciliation and could only extend out ten years—were made permanent for 99% of the American people. We kept and made permanent 85% of the dollar value of those tax cuts.

Now Senator Hatch and Congressman Paul Ryan are designing a tax reform package that will drop tax rates to 25%, including full expensing for all business investment and provide for robust territoriality. That will be a great boost for economic growth. Senators Lee and Rubio have just introduced a great tax cut/reform bill that will turbocharge the economy. Pro-growth tax reform is front and center in Republican thinking.  But nothing—nothing good—can pass the Obama envy veto

George W. Bush had many strengths. But keeping spending down was not one of them. He certainly looks good compared to Obama’s stimulus spending. But Bush allowed spending to drift upwards. The Tea Party arose in opposition to both his failure to control spending as in revulsion to Obama’s massive increase in spending.

Jeb Bush (Slevin)

SLEVIN: Jeb Bush said that the GOP has gone so far right that both Ronald Reagan and his dad, George H.W. Bush wouldn’t get the GOP presidential nomination today.  Add to that Jeb’s recent comments he is willing to lose the primary to win the general.  Do you agree and do you think Jeb can win the Tea Party vote during the primaries?

NORQUIST:  That is silly. Reagan would be right at home with the Republican House and Senate. Spend less—federal spending as a percentage of the economy fell from Obama’s high of 24% to 20% today thanks to the Sequester and GOP won spending limits.

Tax less: the Bush tax cuts were largely made permanent. And fighting regulation. Jeb Bush is the one Republican thinking of running for the GOP presidential nomination who is completely pre-tea party.  He last ran for office in 2002—fully 12 years ago.  Seven years before the Tea Party. He does not understand the modern electorate. He has never run for office since the Tea Party ended earmarks, won the Sequester fight and won many primaries where pre-tea party candidates did not keep up with the modern Reagan Republican party.  Jeb was cutting edge in 2002. The world and the Republican party has moved ahead faster. He is still a taxi commission candidate in an UBER world.  But Jeb is a smart guy and will catch up over time. The campaign has just begun.

Ronald Reagan Grover (Slevin)

SLEVIN: In 2012, President Obama enjoyed and I think benefitted from a GOP primary that was more a circus than a debate of ideas and the best candidate for president.  Who do you consider as serious presidential candidates who can win in 2016?  How important is it for the GOP presidential nominee to win Florida?  Meaning, does the party have to nominate a center-right candidate or a solid right candidate to win Florida in the general election?

NORQUIST:   In 2008 and 2012 there were two or three real candidates for president surrounded by a collection of munchkins who could not seriously contend for the nomination much less the general election. They cluttered up the stage of each debate and distracted from the real candidates ability to speak to the American people. Many were nice guys, but did not have the capacity to run and win. Campaigns are marathons and they demand training, experience, staff, money, and smarts.

This time around there are six candidates on stage or a half step from the stage who cannot be pushed off the stage. They have the ability to raise money, the organization and narrative to demand serious consideration. Five governors and one Senator: Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Chris Christie of New Jersey.  Rick Perry of Texas,  Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Jeb Bush of Florida and Senator Rand Paul. There may be one or two others who catch a lucky break and win the right and ability to stay on stage for the duration. But Governors are tough to compete with. They have records. Senator Rand Paul is unique in leading a national movement and his ability to reach out to uncommitted voters and move them into the liberty camp.

To win the presidency our nominee will have to win Florida, and the Midwest—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana– as well as the solid south and Western Plains states.

SLEVIN: What will be the winning issues for the GOP going into 2016?

NORQUIST:  Opposition to Obamacare.  A commitment to repeal Obamacare and actually reform the mess that was and is our government controlled health care system. A plan to reform our runaway entitlement spending and bankrupt pension plans.  A promise to protect Second Amendment rights.  A grown up approach to maintaining the peace and American military superiority and our alliances in a dangerous world made more dangerous by Obama’s lack of focus on our place in the world.

SLEVIN:  Do you have any books coming out or books that you have written that you want to encourage folks to check out?

NORQUIST:  “Leave Us Alone: Getting the Government’s Hands Off our Money, Our guns, Our lives,” came out in 2008 and my new book, “End the IRS before it Ends U.S. — How to Restore a Low Tax, High Growth, Wealthy America” — a history of taxation in America and how now to reduce the tax burden to sustainable levels.

Grover IRS Book (Slevin)

SLEVIN:  Thank you Grover for taking the time to participate in our SL7 Interview series.  It was a pleasure and I will be sure to visit DC for a Wednesday group meeting.

You can follow Grover on Twitter @GroverNorquist.

Be sure to share this interview on your social media.

About Patrick Slevin

My PR career started when I was elected the youngest GOP mayor in the nation in 1996. Six months after my election, I was appointed spokesman and surrogate for the GOP presidential nominee U.S. Sen. Bob Dole. Since 1996, I’ve educated opinion leaders and engaged stakeholders as Florida mayor, Fortune 500 corporate PR manager, national trade association communications director, international agency executive, corporate trainer and public speaker.

For the last 12 years, corporate leaders from around the country have retained me for my strategic counsel, campaign leadership and organizational solutions.

Go to for more information.




Jeb Reagan Slevin

Jeb Bush is the political story of 2015. His non-announcement for President has Americans talking from both the left and the right. Surprisingly, liberals and Tea Partiers have come together in expressing their common angst for Jeb. Liberals have come out attacking Jeb as a conservative in moderate’s clothing, while Tea Partiers have publicly crucified Jeb as a false prophet of conservatism.

To make matters worse, Jeb recently stated at a Wall Street Journal conference last month that he would be willing to “lose the primary to win the general without violating [his] principles.”

When you mention Jeb as a Presidential candidate to Tea Partiers, they all have the same dismissive look of disgust and anger. Issues on immigration, Common Core and the Bush brand makes Jeb’s presidential nomination very unlikely.

So how will Jeb Bush win the GOP’s presidential nomination, save the party from itself, and still be able to win the White House?

The key to Jeb’s success and the Republican Party winning the White House is Ronald Reagan.

Jeb Reagan SL7

In June of 2012, Jeb made a prophetic statement that set the tone for his 2016 presidential run and the potential future of the Republican Party.

Jeb in an interview stated that Ronald Reagan (and his dad) would have had difficulty getting the GOP nomination for President if he were to run today. Meaning, Tea Party Republicans who profess their love for Reagan would today, reject one of the country’s greatest Presidents.

As California’s governor, Reagan passed the largest tax increase in California’s and the nation’s history at the time. Over $1 billion. Reagan would also increase taxes when he was President. Reagan had Tip O’Neil, Democratic Speaker of the House to accommodate. Reagan accepted tax increases to get his historic tax cuts.

In today’s social-media fed environment, Reagan would have been vilified by the Tea Party, had he tried to broker the same deal today. Reagan’s position on immigration and deficit spending would further fuel a Tea Party backlash.

Jeb Reagan Slevin

President Reagan would have been called a RINO (Republican-In-Name-Only) and a moderate by Tea Party operatives, as well as talk show radio. See: 5 Reasons Why Ronald Reagan Couldn’t Make It in Today’s GOP.

Reagan’s conservative rhetoric didn’t always match his actions as President. This is a fact that many Tea Party leaders ignore. It’s the 800 pound, pardon the pun, elephant in the room. It’s just easier to keep conservatives’ heads in the sand and conducting conservative witch hunts to see which Republicans float or sink.

Jeb Reagan Slevin

This may explain why Jeb defiantly testified before a House Budget Committee in 2012, “If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 in spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, coach.”

Jeb was attacked by the right and talk radio as a blasphemer.


Unlike President Obama who didn’t have a body of work before he was elected President, Jeb was governor of Florida for eight years. Anyone who has worked in Florida politics, business, and government will tell you Jeb was a conservative governor. More than Reagan.

As governor, Jeb carried out the principles of conservatism: He cut taxes, privatized government, balanced budgets, reduced deficits, legal reform, reformed education to include school vouchers, to name just a few.

Jeb Reagan Slevin

Even today, nearly 10 years after he left the governor’s office, Jeb’s popularity is still riding high and conservative candidates actively seek out Jeb’s coveted political endorsement. As recently as this week, Lenny Curry, Republican candidate for mayor of Jacksonville was the latest to be endorsed by Jeb who said, “Lenny Curry is exactly the principled conservative needed to lead Jacksonville to a better, brighter future.”



Jeb’s tenure as governor concluded one election cycle before Obama was elected President in 2008. During Obama’s first two-years, conservatives pined for another Reagan to lead and fight for America. The anger and powerlessness we felt as conservatives was palpable. It seemed the only voices for conservatives came from talk radio.

The Obamacare town hall meetings over the summer of 2010 would become the catalyst for sending Conservative Republicans to Congress, with the mission of stopping Obama’s collective efforts to weaken, socialize and decimate America. The Tea Party had arrived, which I celebrated at the time.

Obamacare slevin

In 2010, there was a void of Republican leadership, which gave rise to angry conservatives who felt disenfranchised within the Republican Party. For a time, the anger was directed toward stopping Obamacare, but that anger would grow toward the GOP establishment, which became evident in the U.S. House of Representatives and Congressional primaries.

Jeb Reagan Slevin

For two election cycles, Republicans were infighting and could only come together, over 50 times and still counting, to repeal Obamacare in the House of Representatives. During this period, the GOP transformed from a party of positive, forward-thinking, problem solving optimists, with an inspiring vision for America to simply “The Party of No”.


As I see it, the Tea Party is predicated on fighting Obama’s socialist agenda. Not to say it hasn’t worked, because the Tea Party was a great force behind the Republican waves of 2010 and 2014, but that was Congress. Presidential elections are a different electoral beast as we witnessed with Obama being re-elected in 2012.

Jeb is the GOP’s best chance of winning Florida. Who else on the GOP bench can win? If you cannot win Florida, then step aside.

In his latest column in Forbes, political pollster John Zogby dialed in on the impact of a Bush candidacy, “Bring on the Cruz’s, Carsons, Santorums, Christies, Huckabees and Pauls. But watch the two real candidates (Jeb & Mitt) and listen to the real debate. One of these guys can actually win the Presidency and save the party from itself.”


Reagan would endorse Jeb for several reasons. First, he appointed Jeb’s dad as his Vice President. George H.W. Bush was part of the GOP establishment, the same establishment that fought and defeated Reagan in 1976. Second, Jeb is a practical mainstream conservative who will compromise to pass good policy, without compromising conservative principles.

Jeb Reagan Slevin

Third, both liberals and far-right conservatives had beefs with Reagan. Today, it’s Jeb who is emerging as an outlier for mainstream conservatism, much like Reagan in 70’s and 80’s.

Fourth, Bush is a winning brand. Americans like successful brands that win and so did The Gipper.

Most importantly, Reagan would have been savvy enough to know that any Republican presidential candidate must win Florida. For over two decades, Florida has had Republican governors and Republican legislatures, but the state not only voted for Obama once, but twice! Not to mention that Florida Republicans cast more votes for John McCain in 2008 than they did Mitt Romney in 2012.

Jeb is the GOP’s best chance of winning Florida. Who else on the GOP bench can win? If you cannot win Florida, then step aside.


Ronald Reagan is the reason why I became a Republican. Ronald Reagan is my inspiration as a practical conservative. Ronald Reagan is my hope for Republican Party winning the White House in 2016.

It’s clear that Reagan was a practical or mainstream conservative who bent and sometimes abandoned conservative principles to pass public policy. The result was Morning In America, which underwrote the legend and the myth of the Reagan Revolution.

Jeb Bush may be the next Ronald Reagan or even better. Tea Party Conservatives need to re-examine why they loved Reagan and would they vote for him today. Of course they would and that’s why Tea Parties need to take another look at Jeb.

Jeb Reagan Slevin

A Reagan quote from 1977 gets to the heart of the matter:

The principles of conservatism are sound because they are based on what men and women have discovered through experience in not just one generation or a dozen, but in all the combined experience of mankind…I have seen the conservative future and it works…Our task is not to sell a philosophy, but to make the majority of Americans, who already share that philosophy, see that modern conservatism offers them a political home.


On January 14, 2015, Stanford University researchers at Crowdpac ranked republican candidates on where they were on the conservative spectrum. Crowdpac CEO and co-founder Steven Hilton, said, “The data we have suggests that [Jeb’s] much more in line with the [Republican] average than people are thinking.”

In fact, Hilton went on to say that the data suggested Bush is nearly in line with the Republican mainstream on education and immigration, despite a wide perception on the right that he’s too moderate because of his support for Common Core and an immigration overhaul.


Jeb is at the mainstream of conservatism. Still Jeb needs to campaign and articulate his vision for America. He will need to answer several hardball questions and explain his positions on immigration and Common Core.

There’s much more to Jeb Bush than the hyperbole seen in the echo chambers of talk radio.

Jeb Reagan Slevin

Jeb is the only candidate who has the conservative credentials, the executive leadership and brand name that offers a majority of Americans a political home.

Jeb Bush’s presidential candidacy is the GOP’s best chance for bringing mainstream conservatism and Morning Back to America.


SL7 Communications is led by Patrick Slevin, whose meteoric rise in public relations started when he was elected the youngest GOP mayor in the nation in 1996. Six months after his election, Patrick was appointed spokesman and surrogate for presidential candidate U.S. Senator Bob Dole. Since 1996, Patrick has educated opinion leaders and engaged stakeholders as a Florida mayor, Fortune 500 corporate public relations manager, national trade association communications director, international agency executive, corporate trainer and public speaker.

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Email Patrick at or follow him on Twitter @patrickjslevin.