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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Taxes, the Economy, and the Election

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

Scott Clement and Dan Balz report on a WP poll showing Democrats with a 52-38 percent advantage in the generic congressional ballot.
Ironically, the GOP’s weak position comes even as 58 percent of Americans say the economy is excellent or good, tying ratings from January as the most positive marks in 17 years. The fact that many Republicans are worried about whether they can hold the House during a time of positive economic assessments underscores how much Trump’s unpopularity has undermined the party’ greatest asset as fall campaigning begins.

The 38 percent minority of voters who rate the economy as “not so good” or “poor” favor Democrats over Republicans at 70 to 20 percent, a 50-point margin. But Republicans hold only a seven-point advantage with the majority of voters who view the economy positively, 49 to 42 percent.

Trump is a key factor in the asymmetry. Nearly half of voters who are upbeat about the economy still disapprove of the president’s job performance. Among this group, Democrats lead Republicans by a lopsided 74-point margin in congressional vote preferences, 83 percent to 9 percent.
Another part of the story is the inconsistency of economic growth, as Siobhan Hughes and Dante Chinni explain at WSJ:
A deeper look at the economic data by congressional district reveals a less even picture. Data assembled for The Wall Street Journal by the Institute of International Finance shows that the economy is booming in some GOP-held battleground districts. At the same time, a sizable number of competitive districts—almost all currently Republican—are vulnerable to new tariffs, a new cap on deductions for state and local income taxes, or a jobs picture worse than the national average.

The result is a midterm election that reflects not a single nationwide picture, but a disparate series of miniatures. The upshot: The same accelerating national economy that could save a vulnerable Republican in the Virginia suburbs might hurt an at-risk GOP candidate in Kansas or Kentucky.
Overall, the GOP tax cut has been a political bust: since February, polls have consistently shown that disapproval exceeds approval.  See also a post from April.