GOP confident tax overhaul will be a 2018 winner

GOP confident tax overhaul will be a 2018 winner
© Greg Nash

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Republicans are increasingly confident that their tax-reform bill is growing in popularity and will help them buffer the stiff political headwinds they face in the 2018 midterm elections.

At a gathering of donors affiliated with billionaire conservative activists Charles and David Koch, GOP lawmakers and donors said they see signs the public is warming to the bill after initial polling indicated the overhaul would be a massive drag on the party.

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The Koch network spent $20 million in advertising in support of the bill before it passed and has pledged another $20 million to tout the bill before the midterm elections.

“I’m delighted that the network will be committed to helping us tell that story,” said Sen. John CornynJohn Cornyn Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Trump struggles to reshape Fed Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks MORE (R-Texas). “We’ll have to continue to combat the misinformation and the naysayers that want this to fail. … Shame on us if we don’t make it an issue [in 2018].”

A CNN poll released on Dec. 19, just days before President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg on Mueller report: 'Politically, I'm not sure it will change much' Sarah Sanders addresses false statements detailed in Mueller report: 'A slip of the tongue' Trump to visit Japan in May to meet with Abe, new emperor MORE signed the bill into law, found that only 33 percent supported the GOP tax bill and 55 percent opposed it.

Those numbers were worse even than polling for the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which faced majority opposition but routinely pulled 40 percent support or more.

But Republicans say that as voters find out what is in the tax bill they are growing more supportive of it. They believe that shift in sentiment will continue when tax cuts are reflected in workers’ paychecks for the first time in February.

“After about two weeks, the Democrats or colleagues who voted against the tax bill stopped talking about it,” said Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisPro-life Christians are demanding pollution protections Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Abrams: Schumer has been 'relentless but thoughtful' about Senate bid MORE (R-N.C.). “You know why they’re not talking about it? Because they know it’s not our ObamaCare. It’s a policy promoting growth and it’s giving more people money and the proof is in the paycheck … it’s a positive story, that’s why they’re not focusing on it. Because it’s working.” 

A New York Times-Survey Monkey poll released on Jan. 16 found that most voters still oppose the bill, with 49 percent saying they disapprove. But the tax law’s approval leapt from 37 percent in December to 46 percent in January.

“Support is clearly growing for it,” said Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips.

A December survey from Harvard CAPS-Harris found that a 64 percent of voters oppose the bill, but that support for the overhaul spikes to 51 percent when voters are told that it will reduce overall tax rates for individuals, double the child tax credit and repeal the ObamaCare mandate.

“Last year there were 122,000 families in Tennessee that had to pay the ObamaCare penalty for not purchasing insurance,” said Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnConservative groups defend tech from GOP crackdown Lawmakers weigh challenges in fighting robocalls Senators show deep skepticism on Space Force proposal MORE (R-Tenn.). “The kicker is that 100,000 of those families had incomes of $50,000 or less and were paying that penalty because they couldn’t afford to buy a product mandated for them to buy by the [federal] government.”

Still, the Harvard CAPS-Harris survey found that 59 percent oppose reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent — the bill’s signature issue.

Republicans will need all the help they can get in 2018 as they try to hold on to majorities in the House and Senate.

The party in power typically loses seats in the midterm elections and generic ballot polling finds Democrats with a double-digit lead in the House. Trump’s approval rating is historically low for a first-term president and there are worries he will be a drag on the party.

Liberals are energized in opposition to Trump and are emboldened by recent elections held in swing states or red states such as Virginia and Alabama.