NPR's Tamara Keith noticed something about the economic proposals that Donald Trump is expected to unveil during a speech in Detroit on Monday: Until a few days ago, they were on his website.
Thanks to the Internet Archive, we can compare the menu before and after. Presto-changeo: So long, tax proposal.
If you want to read the proposals as they existed on the website last week after being rolled out last fall, here you go. We pulled the PDF summary from the archive and are happy to present them here.
According to a preview of the speech reported by Bloomberg, much of the heart of what Trump will talk about on Monday already exists in that document. A 15 percent corporate tax rate. An end to the estate tax. A reduction in the number of tax brackets. All there. (Update: The tax brackets changed slightly.) Other proposals have been outlined elsewhere, too. His calls to renegotiate international trade agreements and increase energy exploration are not new, nor is his embrace of the Keystone XL pipeline.
What seems to be new is a proposal to instantiate a moratorium on new financial regulations until the economy shows "significant growth" — an idea that weirdly parallels his proposal to halt immigration by Muslims until federal officials "figure out what's going on." It's a sweeping step with vague boundaries. If his broader goal is still to appeal to supporters of Bernie Sanders, though, this is probably not going to help. (Our new poll suggests that he's already missed his chance with Sanders backers anyway.)
The other new proposal gives us good insight into what's really going on with the speech. According to Bloomberg, Trump will outline a proposal to make child care tax deductible. Why this in particular? To appeal to families and, in particular, working women. Child care was one of the policy proposals that Ivanka Trump included in her convention speech that, to that point, hadn't been mentioned in Trump's policy proposals. (Incidentally, the proposal won't do much for poorer families.)
Why the explicit appeal on this issue? Because Trump's faltering with women voters.
It's hard not to see this speech/rollout as mostly being about changing the conversation after Trump's miserable week in the polls. It explains why old proposals are being introduced as new, in an effort to get some headlines. It explains both the child care and anti-regulatory policies; another group with whom Trump is doing particularly poorly is mainstream Republicans.
Trump recognizes that economic issues are also one area in which he tends to outperform Hillary Clinton. In Washington Post/ABC News polling since the beginning of the year, he has consistently done better on the subject than Clinton, particularly among independent voters. That margin has narrowed to 2 points among registered voters in the most recent survey — but Trump still has the edge.
This is a surprisingly traditional campaign move, to Trump's credit. Repackage a set of old proposals, sprinkle some new, voter-friendly things on top, and unveil a Big Speech™ that can get media attention on a subject that favors you electorally.
Trump will also likely spend some time criticizing the state of the economy. Last week, he said that the economic numbers were getting worse and that, if they continue to fall, he hopes the economy tanks before he takes office so he doesn't get the blame. But on Friday, a new jobs report was nearly all good news, including that wages were going up. The Obama administration's favorite talking point that there had been months of uninterrupted private sector job growth took a hit with data showing a net loss in May — but that's in part a function of a strike by Verizon workers that month.
So while the economy continues to be one of the key priorities of voters, the issue isn't as resonant as it was in 2008, certainly, or even 2012. (At this point in 2012, Gallup's index of economic confidence was well below where it is now.)
Trump's electoral challenge continues to be figuring out a way to expand his voter base. That base responds to Trump's excoriations of the status quo on the stump more than the status-quo economic proposals that his past white papers have outlined. Whether or not new voters flock to Trump after he reintroduces those specifics depends to some extent on which Trump they believe: The one who's been railing against Wall Street on TV for months or the one who just announced hedge fund managers for his economic team and a new hiatus on regulations.
So far, they've taken Trump at his spoken word — and are skeptical.