GOP wants to connect with voters over success of 2017 $1.5 trillion tax cut package

October 3, 2018

Republicans are convinced that voters could be excited about the GOP-passed tax cuts, if only they would focus on them.

The $1.5 trillion package passed last year purely on the strength of Republican votes, and the GOP says there’s a clear connection between the law and an economy that, by most accounts, is roaring.

“We need to run on it we need to do it very aggressively and that’s what I hope we’re able to do,” said Rep. Dennis Ross, Florida Republican, who isn’t seeking re-election this year. “We should be controlling the message instead of being defined by other messages.”

Recent polling has shown that the public could be coming around on the tax code overhaul, as Republicans predicted when they passed it late last year when it was significantly less popular.

The latest Real Clear Politics average showed that about 39 percent of the public approves of the law, compared with 43 percent who disapprove, although approval has ticked up 3 points just since July.

President Trump said in Philadelphia on Tuesday that the tax cuts are largely responsible for the surging economy.

“At the heart of our economic revival are the massive tax cuts passed by the Republicans in Congress we didn’t get one Democrat vote,” Mr. Trump told the annual convention of the National Electrical Contractors Association. “And those tax cuts are one of the reasons the economy is doing so well.”

But since the debate started last year, Republicans have labored to fend off Democrats’ characterizations of the law as a massive giveaway to the wealthy.

Bloomberg reported last month that a recent survey commissioned by the Republican National Committee showed that by a 2-to-1 margin, respondents said large corporations and rich Americans benefit more from the law than do middle-class families.

Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who opposed the law over a new cap on state and local tax deductions, said Democrats probably have won the messaging war to a certain extent, but he also said lawmakers who voted for the tax cuts should by no means run away from them.

“They should be taking advantage of it in their states, because the economy is definitely doing better,” he said.

Rep. Steve Stivers, who heads the House GOP’s campaign arm, told reporters recently that Republicans intend to hammer home the message that voters have a “choice” between lower taxes and fewer regulations under a Republican Congress or a reversal of that progress if Democrats gain seats.

“I think it is a choice that will be front and center in people’s minds,” the Ohio Republican said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast last month. “But we have to make sure we put it there. And if you see our ads in the fall you’ll know that it’s one of the centerpieces of our campaign.”

Rep. Paul Gosar said the tax cuts are a winning message if the goal is to appeal to average Americans and that they also can serve to energize the GOP base if Republicans can show what they will do if they maintain their House and Senate majorities.

“When mom and dad sit down at the kitchen table and start looking at their numbers, the numbers are overwhelmingly in our favor,” the Arizona Republican said. “You got more choice, you got more mobility in the marketplace, wages are going up, consumer confidence in the Republican Party is at its highest that’s when you put the pedal to the metal or go home. Go big or go home.”

Taxes and tax policy have been the top issues in ads this cycle from the Congressional Leadership Fund, the main pro-House GOP super PAC, said spokeswoman Courtney Alexander.

“I think folks should lean into the middle-class tax cut more I think everyone should be talking about it as much as they possibly can,” Ms. Alexander said. “I think anything that reminds voters that Republicans have created the best economy in the last 40 years that’s a positive.”

She said that includes “Tax Reform 2.0,” a second round of tax cuts the House passed before members headed home to campaign.

Still, an ad-tracking study from the Wesleyan Media Project shows there’s room for growth in getting the message across on the airwaves.

The group, which has been conducting studies on political ads in the midterms, found that the percentage of pro-GOP ads in federal races that mentioned taxes, tax reform, and jobs declined a bit in August compared to earlier this year.

“You might think with such a low unemployment rate there would be more mentions of that, and we’re not really finding all that much,” said Travis Ridout, a co-director of the project and a professor of government and public policy at Washington State University. “Maybe this is more of a base election as midterms tend to be, and that’s just not an issue that brings base voters out to the polls. I’m not sure.”

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