Dems see tax bill as giving them midterm advantage

Democrats are confident that they can turn the GOP’s big victory on taxes against Republicans next fall and use President Trump’s signature legislative achievement as a wedge issue to win back the House majority.

Boosted by polls that show the tax bill is unpopular and that they enjoy tail winds headed into next year’s elections, Democrats say this December’s tax win for the GOP will come back to haunt Republicans.

“The ads pretty much write themselves: Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress raided our budget to line their own pockets and the pockets of their big donors while most Americans won’t see a dime of relief. Does that sound like government that’s working for you?” Democratic strategist Christy Setzer said. 

{mosads}Republicans believe that as withholding tables change and taxpayers see their paychecks grow next year, the tax bill’s popularity will increase.

While many in the GOP acknowledge the party faces headwinds next year, they argue the tax bill will ultimately offer the party some protection.

“The results are going to make this popular,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said at a news conference this week. 

The Republican National Committee is planning to launch a multimillion-dollar effort early next year aimed at targeting Democrats who did not support the bill. 

“We’re going to remind every voter that Republicans gave the American people a historic pay raise while Democrats stood in the way,” Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel told The Hill earlier this week. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned incumbent Democratic senators in North Dakota, Montana and Indiana, among other red-states, that they will rue voting against the tax bill.

Some observers believe Democrats need to be a little careful with their attacks.

Grant Reeher, the director of the Campbell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University, said Democrats have benefitted so far from positive press coverage. He also said that it could be harder to attack the bill if taxpayers start to see some benefits in their paychecks.

“Although there are many deep problems with this bill — most notably its effects on overall economic inequality and the national debt — Democrats have so far gained a lot of traction by spreading misinformation about it, claiming that the middle class will pay more,” Reeher said.

“The media have largely passed this message along uncritically, and the payoff from the Democratic strategy can be seen in recent polling numbers. But that message will be harder to sustain as we get closer to November 2018, and people start running the 2018 tax numbers for themselves.” 

Reeher also predicted that Democrats could run into more problems if the stock market continues to do well and the 401(k) accounts of voters continue to grow. 

“That might have its strongest effect in the suburbs, where the Democratic revolution is going to take place,” he said. 

Republicans are already trying to bolster the tax bill’s case by pointing to releases from companies that have announced bonuses or pay hikes that they say are linked to the tax bill. With some of the announcements, there’s been some question about whether the plans were already in place and not linked to the tax bill’s passage.

Polls show the GOP has some work to do.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this week showed that 63 percent of those surveyed said the bill would benefit the wealthy and corporations. Meanwhile, a CNN poll also released this week showed 55 percent were opposed to the tax-reform legislation, an increase of 10 percentage points from a month ago.

Democrats are trying to keep those numbers low with public statements slamming the GOP legislation.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who may run for president in 2020, called the tax bill “Foolhardy at best and deceitful at worst.” 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who may also run for president again, said “we are witnessing highway robbery in broad daylight and a looting of the Federal Treasury.”

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, called it an “economically indefensible blunder that will harm our future.”

A CNN poll out this week showed that Democrats have an advantage going into 2018.

Among registered voters, 56 percent of respondents said they favored a Democrat in their congressional district, while 38 percent said they preferred a Republican. 

Bill Galston, a senior fellow of governance studies at Brookings Institution, who served as a policy adviser to former President Clinton during his administration, said Democrats will use the bill to argue that Trump is not putting into place the populist policies he promised. One vulnerability for the president is that the bill does little to change the favorable tax treatment for wealthy investment managers.

“No doubt Democrats will be combing the bill for little nuggets, particular provisions that do embody highly targeted policies that will look like giveaways,” he said. “And if Democrats want to make an issue of the president, they can use it to weaken any populist credentials he may have.”

While both parties can make their own cases about how the tax legislation helps or hurts voters, Galston predicted that Democrats may have an easier time making the argument that it won’t help the middle class. 

“They just have to find effective ways of saying what the majority of the public already believes,” he said.

Still, Galston agreed that both parties see political advantages from the tax bill’s passage.

“And neither of them are wrong,” he said. “Republicans are going to brag about passing the legislation and Democrats are going to work just as hard to make the contrary argument. And may the better argument win.” 

Tags Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan

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