Some Republican governors soften on taxes

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, one of the most influential Republicans in the country, echoed McDonnell’s assessment that Republicans should be open to upping the rates of the top filers in exchange for significant Democratic concessions on Social Security, Medicare and deficit reduction.

“If there’s enough savings, if there’s enough entitlement reform, if there’s enough certainty about tax reform in the next few years, I would,” Barbour said when asked whether his party should consider softening its opposition to letting the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest expire.

Like McDonnell, the Mississippian indicated he’d rather not raise the top rate, calling it “bad economics” that could “hurt the recovery.”

But Barbour also bowed to pragmatism.

“You can’t be purist,” Barbour said, adding: “If we don’t do something now about entitlement reform it gets harder next year.”

To hear such GOP heavyweights edge away from the Grover Norquist line is somewhat jarring. However, it underlines what many elite Republicans see as the urgent policy and political demands of the moment.