Republicans were banking on their $1.5 trillion tax cut to give them a boost in the 2018 elections, but that isn’t how Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania's deep-red 18th congressional district played out.
Outside groups spent millions promoting the tax cuts in support of Republican Rick Saccone. But in the final days of the race, Republicans backed away from the issue, a sign that the message wasn’t resonating with the district’s working-class and suburban voters.
Saccone’s weak performance against Democrat Conor Lamb in a district President Trump won by nearly 20 points suggests that the tax overhaul won’t give Republicans the boost they were hoping for — and some Democrats think it may even work against the GOP. “In this overwhelmingly Trump district, Republicans put all their eggs in the basket of Trump's tax plan. And the basket broke,” Democratic strategist Jess Ferguson told Business Insider. “If you can't hold onto a district that is this Republican after spending $10 million promoting your tax plan, it's not just that the tax plan failed to sell, it's that it backfired."
Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg sees a broader problem for the GOP, with the tax overhaul now tying Trump and the Republican Party to what he describes as House Speaker Paul Ryan’s agenda largely focused on cutting taxes for the rich. “GOP chose plutocracy over a plan designed to help everyday people. It was a reveal. This thing is an albatross now for them as they head into the fall,” Rosenberg tweeted.
Some Republicans leaders downplayed the implications of the election, though, and insisted that Saccone was a weak candidate and that Lamb ran as a “pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Nancy Pelosi conservative,” as Paul Ryan put it. And Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), chair of the House Republican Conference brushed off the Pennsylvania loss by saying, “We aren't even in full momentum on tax reform.”