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Poll shows why the GOP has given up touting its unpopular tax plan

Republicans thought they could use their tax plan as a life-preserver as the midterms approached. Oops.
Image: Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence
In this Dec. 20, 2017, photo, President Donald Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and other members of...

There was a congressional special election in Pennsylvania a few months ago that Republicans expected to win. After all, the race was in the state's 18th district, which Donald Trump had carried the year before by 20 points.

What's more, going into the March election, the GOP and its allies believed their recently passed tax cuts would give the party an added boost, and the month before voters went to the polls, Republicans blanketed local airwaves with ads touting the GOP tax plan.

But as Pennsylvania's special election drew closer, Republicans abruptly switched gears -- because they discovered the commercials about tax breaks weren't working. The Democrat ended up narrowly winning the race.

This was not an isolated incident. There's plenty to chew on in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, but this stood out for me:

[Would you] be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who supports Donald Trump's tax reform bill?More likely: 36%Less likely: 42%

CNBC's John Harwood added that in the most competitive House districts, that six-point margin becomes as 12-point margin against the Republican tax package.

This explains a lot.

GOP officials assumed their unpopular tax plan would gain support as the year continued, and Republicans could effectively use the tax cuts as a life-preserver as the midterms approached. But with five months remaining before the elections, the party has largely given up even mentioning their only meaningful legislative accomplishment since taking the reins of federal power.

Remember, as the GOP tax breaks were clearing Capitol Hill last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) looked ahead to the 2018 midterms with some confidence. "If we can't sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work," he said at the time.

Several months later, if McConnell meant what he said, he probably ought to start updating his resume.

Postscript: In case this isn't obvious, I'm only reflecting this morning on the latest polling on the Republican tax plan, not the substantive merits of the policy. That said, it remains true that the GOP tax cuts are awful on a substantive level, too.