- Republicans want to make the new tax law the centerpiece of their 2018 midterm strategy.
- The GOP abandoned messaging on the law in the recent Pennsylvania special election, which appears to have been won by a Democrat in heavily Republican district.
- The ineffectiveness of the tax message in Pennsylvania could be trouble for the GOP in the midterms.
The centerpiece of the GOP midterm strategy didn’t appear to make a dent in the special election in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, and that should worry Republicans.
The recently implemented tax law that was championed by Republicans is expected to be a central part of the midterm message for the party.
But according to a report from Politico, the party largely abandoned the message in the final days before the election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. The contest was between Democrat Conor Lamb, who has declared victory, and Republican Rick Saccone.
According to Politico’s data, three major Republican groups — Saccone’s campaign, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC — ramped up tax messaging in February but faded away from the issue down the home stretch.
Ads mentioning the tax law dropped from nearly 70% of all messages in the first two weeks of February to less than 1% by early March.
Additionally, Lamb blasted the law during rallies, saying it’s a giveaway for the rich, and former Vice President Joe Biden took shots at the law while campaigning in the district.
In the district, as Business Insider’s Allan Smith reported from Pennsylvania, many people were not seeing the full benefit of the law yet, and what they did receive was not significant.
National polling over the past three months has shown a small positive boost for the law, but many surveys still show that support is evenly divided at best and even in positive polls, few people say they have noticed a pay bump.
The law also poses a timing issue for Republicans who want to bank on the goodwill. While the Internal Revenue Service estimated that 90% of workers should’ve seen an increase in their take home pay due to withholding adjustments by the end of February, few Americans will have filed taxes under the new system by the time the midterms roll around.
Thus, the bump from the withholding adjustment may be months behind most people, and the full effect on most people’s tax returns won’t be realized yet.
To be fair, there could be elements specific to the Pennsylvania race that could have muted the positive effects of the law. Additionally, Republicans told Politico that they were still using the tax law in messages online and in mailing ads.
But, in the first litmus test for the 2018 midterms, it doesn’t seem that the tax law was the slam-dunk winner some Republicans were banking on.
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