By Michael O’Brien - 12/09/10 01:44 AM EST
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday signaled her opposition to the tax-cut deal favored by President Obama, staking out ground in a debate that is certain to shape the 2012 campaign landscape.
Palin seemed to cast her lot with the handful of conservatives who have come out against the agreement hashed out by the White House and congressional Republicans. It extends for two years all the expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts — including those for the highest income earners — in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits and other middle-class tax breaks.
The 2008 vice presidential nominee’s comments put her squarely on the record along with several other possible challengers for the party’s nomination in two years. Formal campaign announcements aren’t expected for several months.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who threw his support behind several winning Tea Party-backed candidates in the midterm elections, said this week he would vote against the deal, as well as anything else that increases the deficit.
“It raises taxes — it raises the death tax,” he said Tuesday on the Hugh Hewitt radio show. “I don’t think we needed to negotiate that aspect of this thing away. I don’t think we need to extend unemployment any further without paying for it.”
By contrast, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he supported the deal, telling Fox News the accord between Obama and Republicans was a “good” agreement and that it was the “right thing and what the economy needs.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) also endorsed it.
“I think it’s really important that they get this done,” he told the conservative magazine Newsmax. “And one of the reasons it has to happen is because the unemployment rate keeps holding up there near 10 percent ... [and] because with uncertainty hanging over business owners, they can’t hire anybody.”
While most of the possible candidates for president have called for extending all the Bush tax cuts, some haven’t said specifically whether they would support the deal being considered in Congress, with its attached spending on jobless benefits.
“I guess what I would tell you in terms of where I come down on this: It remains to be seen,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said on a conference call with South Dakota reporters. “As of right now, I will reserve judgment until such time as I actually see something in writing that I’m actually able to review and give the appropriate level of consideration to.”
Neither former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) nor outgoing Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has announced a formal position on the deal. Spokesmen for both did not respond to requests for comment.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), one of the few possible 2012 GOP presidential candidates who will have an opportunity to vote on any tax deal, said he favors a permanent extension of the tax cuts and was still examining the package.
“I am currently evaluating the bill,” he said. “I think the best deal for the American people is a permanent extension of all the tax rates, and I’m just trying to evaluate if this is a good enough deal for me to support.”
As the 2012 cycle gets under way, candidates have begun looking for ways to distinguish themselves in the crowded primary field. In terms of lame-duck priorities, for instance, Romney has focused much of his effort opposing the New START Treaty that Democrats want ratified by the end of the year.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs noted Palin's comments in his daily briefing Wednesday, saying, "I don't know if you guys got Sarah Palin's tweet, but it does not appear she likes the deal."
Russell Berman contributed to this article.