The right is awash in proposed vows, offered up by interest groups seeking to bind candidates. But few seem eager to sign this year.
Over the last week, we've been treated to a small-scale campaign controversy over slavery and gay marriage. Reporters noticed that "The Marriage Vow," a heterosexual-marriage candidate pledge put out by Iowa social conservative group The FAMiLY Leader and signed by Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, contained this language in its preamble:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA?s first African-American President.
The group took out the language, intended to highlight how shabby things have gotten for the nuclear family under Obama's watch. Now, both former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty have declined to sign it, Romney because he found some of the provisions "undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign" according to a spokeswoman, and Pawlenty because he supports a heterosexual definition of marriage but would "prefer to choose my own words."
All this comes at a time when Bob Vander Plaats, the FAMiLY Leader founder, has been using the pledge to pursue his goal of becoming an Iowa presidential kingmaker, on which The Atlantic's Joshua Green reported in May -- only to see that effort sputter.
The episode has highlighted a trend in Republican politics of late: The right is awash in candidate pledges, offered up by groups seeking to yoke the field of presidential aspirants to their agendas. And those pledges are struggling to take hold.