If the Iowa conservative group "The Family Leader" succeeded at one thing by issuing its "Marriage Vow," it was in making life a little more difficult for GOP presidential contenders. By the sheer virtue of the vow's existence, candidates were compelled to either sign or not sign—and on Wednesday, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty officially became part of the latter category.
In a statement, Pawlenty said he "respectfully" declined to sign the pledge because he would "prefer to choose [his] own words, especially seeking to show compassion to those who are in broken families through no fault of their own." He made no mention of the controversial portions of the pledge comparing gay marriage to polygamy, banning Sharia law, and rejecting pornography. (By the time Pawlenty made his announcement, the Family Leader had already dropped a line from the pledge suggesting black families were perhaps better off during slavery.)
In rejecting the pledge, Pawlenty joins former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who said Tuesday he would not sign the vow because it contains "references and provisions that were undignified and inappropriate for a presidential campaign."
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rick Santorum signed the marriage pledge soon after it was released. But Romney and Pawlenty both decided to wait out the initial media coverage before choosing to abstain. The delay highlights the awkward situation the pledge created for the two ex-governors. They both want to win the GOP presidential primary. That requires a certain amount of pandering to the far right. But they also want to win the presidency, and they realize that the more controversial aspects of the pledge aren't going to help them on that front. Then again, neither of them actually wants to identify which parts of the pledge they think were problematic for fear of further alienating the parts of the base that agree with those parts of the vow. How awkward!