Stunning Pennsylvania upset proves GOP tax bill is total failure

Conor Lamb

The Republican Party's only legislative achievement is a non-starter with voters.

Signing the GOP’s billion-dollar giveaway tax bill into law late last year, Trump bragged that the legislation would virtually assure Republican success this November.

“I don’t think I’m going to have to travel too much to sell it” during the 2018 midterm elections, Trump said. “I think it’s selling itself.”

Think again.

In the first congressional test case since the bill was passed over the universal objections of Democrats, Republicans on Tuesday managed to lose a deeply red Trump district in Pennsylvania. And Republicans lost it after trying to use their tax bill as the centerpiece of the campaign.

Conor Lamb’s stunning victory over Republican Rick Saccone delivers a jolt to Republicans for many reasons. And watching its beloved tax bill be cast aside by voters as essentially meaningless certainly ranks among the party’s most painful lessons.

Indeed, one of the big reasons Republicans were so desperate to ram through their tax giveaway to billionaires and corporations last year — and do it without public hearings — was they hoped voters would credit them.

But it completely flopped in Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, to the point where Republicans virtually abandoned the tax message by the end of the campaign.

“An outside group allied with the House GOP recently launched spots slamming Democrat Conor Lamb as a ‘Pelosi liberal’ and for allegedly supporting ‘sanctuary cities and amnesty for illegals,'” noted Greg Sargent at the Washington Post. “The National Republican Congressional Committee has recently released ads that slam Lamb, a former prosecutor, as soft on gun traffickers. A super PAC allied with Trump has an ad that mentions the tax cuts but talks more about ‘Pelosi liberals.'”

Politico had additional data: “For the weeks of Feb. 4 and Feb. 11, roughly two-thirds of the broadcast television ads from Saccone’s campaign, the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC and the National Republican Congressional Committee mentioned taxes, according to a POLITICO analysis of data from Advertising Analytics. For the week of Feb. 18, that dropped to 36 percent, and to 14 percent the week after.”

If the GOP tax bill doesn’t resonate in a heavily red district like the Pennsylvania 18th, Republicans in Southern California are certainly in trouble.

States like California already pay a large amount of the nation’s taxes, and the Republican tax bill “substantially increase[d] the share of total federal personal income taxes” paid by California, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Most other states will “receive a larger share of the tax cuts relative to what they pay to the federal government today.”

Reps. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) and Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) are hard at work spinning the bill, but voters aren’t buying it.

Paychecks aren’t getting bigger, corporations are lavishing Wall Street with billions of dollars worth of stock buybacks, and small businesses rightly point out the bill is “a convoluted tax law that gives every advantage to their wealthy corporate competitors rather than supporting small-business growth.”

Recent polling in Knight’s district show only 36 percent of voters support the bill, and Walters’ constituents aren’t too happy with it, either.

Meanwhile, the GOP’s other supposed signature issue, repealing Obamacare, also flopped in Pennsylvania. A strong majority of voters in the district, where the population skews quite old, oppose the Republicans’ repeal efforts.

The GOP’s messaging machine has collapsed.

Dan Desai Martin contributed to this article.