The Washington Examiner reports that the huge expenditure reflects how worried Republicans are about the seat held by GOP incumbent Steve Daines, who is facing a stiff challenge from Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
What’s interesting here is how Democrats are attacking Daines, and what that says about Trump and GOP vulnerability on the economy, now that we’re sliding into a depression partly created by Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the federal response to the pandemic.
The Dem-aligned Senate Majority PAC is up with its own ad attacking Daines that’s backed by a $700,000 buy, according to the group:
Note the centrality of the 2017 Trump/GOP corporate tax cut, which lavished enormous benefits on the wealthiest earners while producing few of its promised effects on wages or growth. That was true even before the coronavirus depression, and this ad is all about the economic terrors of ordinary Americans right now amid the current crash, depicting soaring jobless claims and evaporating retirement holdings.
Those are juxtaposed with both Daines’s support for the corporate tax giveaway and Republican efforts to limit the size and scope of various economic rescue programs Democrats have pushed, such as paid sick leave and expanded unemployment assistance.
As it is, the Great and Glorious Trump Tax Cut of 2017 was already a big GOP vulnerability. Yes, Democrats won the House largely by campaigning against GOP efforts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, but they also effectively wielded the tax cut against Republicans, and it has continued to remain very unpopular.
Even before the coronavirus crashed the economy, the tax cut was already being used against another vulnerable Senate GOP incumbent. A Dem-aligned group in Maine spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads hammering Susan Collins over her vote for it. And it’s reasonable to assume that Democrats will use it again in the battle for the House, just as in 2018.
All of this points to an important way in which the coronavirus — and the resulting economic calamity — completely upended the carefully laid plans of Trump and Republicans.
Trump’s corporate tax cut underscored how comprehensively he sold out the sham “economic populism” he ran on in 2016 as he fully embraced conventional GOP plutocracy. Trump had hoped to ride the good economic trends — which, perversely, he largely inherited from Barack Obama’s presidency — and would falsely credit his tax cuts for producing those trends, obscuring their fundamental plutocratic bent.
But now that coronavirus has sent us skidding downward into a depression whose horrors we can only guess at, this clever scheme is in ruins. What’s more, by blowing whatever “economic populist” credibility he had, Trump will find it harder to make the new argument his campaign is rolling out — i.e., that he built the greatest economy in human history (he didn’t), and is well equipped to do it again (he isn’t).
Indeed, Trump’s corporate tax cut legacy could dovetail with the economic collapse in a way no one could have anticipated. Right now, Democrats are seizing on the collapse to make the case for a much more robust set of social democratic policies than they’d expected to be pushing for, from trillions in new stimulus spending to very ambitious worker protections to large investments in public health and government-backed health care.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden is tying a promise to repeal most of Trump’s corporate tax cuts directly to his vow of a very ambitious response to the economic crash going forward.
By contrast, after four years in office, Trump is stuck touting a signature legislative achievement that remains deeply unpopular and continues to showcase his plutocratic priorities — only now that’s amid an economic catastrophe.
Underscoring the point, it’s quite striking that this tax cut — which has been a central boasting point for Trump for years, one he has made central to his false claim to having supercharged the economy — is being turned against a GOP incumbent in a state Trump carried by 20 points. That says it all.