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DEMS STRUGGLING WITH RISING POPULARITY OF GOP TAX LAW

Democrats are struggling to cope with the rising popularity of the Republican tax law, less than nine months until the midterm elections.

Democrats received a wake-up call of sorts earlier this week when Priorities USA, a top Democratic super PAC, released a memo calling on Democrats to message more consistently against the tax law. The law’s standing has increased in the polls as GOP groups pitch the tax cuts to voters as a solid Republican accomplishment.

 “I think the memo is spot on. Absolutely spot on,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., one of the 12 House Democrats who sit in districts where Trump won in 2016.

“We have to stay focused on this,” Bustos said. “You’ve got the budget, the tax bill and transportation that adds up to disaster in many parts of our country and leaves terrible debt for our kids and our grandkids. We’ve got a lot to work with right now, but we’ve got to focus on that. Not all of the other diversions that come up every single day.”

According to the memo, Trump’s marks on both the economy and taxes have grown by double-digits over the past few months. Another poll released this week shows Republicans leading in the generic congressional ballot for the first time, largely due to the rise in popularity of the tax bill, forcing Democrats to reexamine their messaging in the coming months.

Republicans continue to see the bill as their saving grace in their push to keep hold of the House and, to a lesser extent the Senate. The American Action Network, an outside group with the backing of Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has pumped $29 million to back the bill, including over $5 million since it passed in mid-December. The Koch brothers have also spent $20 million, and plan to invest another $20 million to sell the law.

House Republicans also have seized on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s characterization of the tax law, which she said is only giving “crumbs” back to taxpayers. Democrats from red states believe that was a mistake, but Pelosi continues to use that line.

“The approach has to be more big picture than personal, because you can’t tell people that are getting $200 a month more that that’s not good,” said Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., ranking member on the House Budget Committee. “That’s big money for a lot of people.”

“I would say it differently,” Yarmuth said. “I wouldn’t say a couple thousand dollars a year is ‘crumbs.'”

Democrats are being urged to point out the disparity between immediate benefits for lower and middle-class Americans and the nation’s top earners, especially as they head home for the next week during the week-long recess. However, they see an uphill slog against the GOP messaging and the rising paychecks some voters are experiencing.

“It’s tougher to win when people are seeing more money,” Yarmuth said, although he believes noting the disparity between the rich and other taxpayers will eventually resonate with voters.

Despite the tax bill, political winds still favor Democrats given the struggles presidents have incurred in the first midterm election after their inauguration. Dating back to World War II, the party out of power has gained an average of 26 seats in those elections. Democrats currently sit 25 votes short of the requisite 218 to retake the House, including one vacancy after the resignation of former Rep. John Conyers.

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