Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Five Keys to 2018 Politics in Missouri and Illinois

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Five Keys to 2018 Politics in Missouri and Illinois

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * The elections for Congress in Missouri and Illinois in 2018 can be forecast heavily on one unknowable: How popular will the tax cuts just passed by Congress be in November?

For now, that question is leaning heavily toward the Democrats' opposition to it.

Republicans, some of whom face tough re-election in the region, are furiously trying to sell the cuts as good for average people $2,000 in relief for an average family of four making $73,000.

"This bill cuts taxes for individuals at every income level and the numbers do not lie, this is a bill that focuses on middle-income earners," said Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, one of three regional U.S. House members expected to face serious challenges in '18. The two others are Reps. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, and Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin.

Democrats point to studies showing that a vast majority of the cuts will go to corporations and the rich. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-St. Louis, who faces a primary challenge from ordained minister Cori Bush, called it a "tax scam" and "one of the worst pieces of legislation that I have ever seen."

A late December Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll showed that by a margin of 63 percent to 7 percent, Americans see the GOP tax plan "as designed to benefit corporations and rich Americans," said Peter Hart, who conducted the poll.

"For the first time, the Democrats are regaining an edge on which party would be better at dealing with key issues such as economy and taxes," Hart said. "Additionally, they have a double-digit advantage on 'looking out for the middle class.' "

This tax equation is one of five key issues to watch for in 2018 politics in the region and the country. The four others:

* The popularity of President Donald Trump, who has promised to campaign for Attorney General Josh Hawley, one of four Republicans seeking the nomination to oppose Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in one of the nation's most-watched Senate races.

Both McCaskill and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., say they believe Trump has maintained a higher degree of support in Missouri than in other areas of the country. (The president won the Show Me State by 19 percentage points in 2016.) A relatively popular Trump could be a motivator for Republican voters in a non-presidential election. But his presidential campaign is a focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 elections.

* The state of the economy in the region. Republicans are trying to portray the tax cuts as a boost for an economy that they say has already gained momentum through cuts in federal regulations and confidence in Trump as a businessman-president.

If the economy continues to hum at a growth rate of 3 percent or more in the second quarter of 2018, that argument could hold water; if not, and if the focus is on higher government revenue deficits, the Democrats' arguments that the tax cuts are a payoff to the rich on money borrowed from their grandchildren could be powerful motivators for their supporters in the voting booth in November. …

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