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Democrats struggle for economic message

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y.,

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., right, responds to a reporter's question on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, following the weekly Democratic policy luncheon. Schumer is joined by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), left, and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill). Credit: AP / Susan Walsh

Democrats face an uphill battle in sending an economic message clear enough to compete with that of Republicans who have been trumpeting gains from their sweeping tax cuts, political consultants of both parties say.

“Main Street is BOOMING thanks to our incredible TAX CUT and Reform law,” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday.

Hours earlier, House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “Tax reform continues to gain public support and drive record optimism, even as Washington Democrats still insist it’s all just ‘crumbs.’ ”

Democrats’ edge may be eroding in the push to retake the House and Senate in November as they struggle to counter the GOP message, the pro-Democrat Priorities USA PAC warned last week.

“In the last few weeks, Democrats turned their attention to other issues while Trump has continued to promote his economic policies, and Trump’s numbers have incrementally improved as a result,” the group said in a memo.

“You cannot just run against Donald Trump,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week. “And it is the job of we Democrats to put together a strong, cohesive economic group of proposals aimed at the middle class and those struggling to get there.”

Polling released Monday by The New York Times showed 51 percent of Americans approve of the tax law, compared with 46 percent in January and 37 percent in December, when the legislation passed with no Democratic support. Ryan’s statement Tuesday linked to the Times’ findings.

Ryan (R-Wisc.) also referred to a remark last month by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in which she criticized the GOP for “the bonus that corporate America received versus the crumbs that they are giving to workers.”

Republicans have seized on the “crumbs” line, saying a $1,000 bonus can go a long way for workers.

“The Democrats don’t have one unified message that works across the board,” Republican strategist Evan Siegfried said.

GOP consultant Susan Del Percio said their messaging is further muddled by multiple-candidate primaries in which challengers range from “super liberal to moderate.” She cited the six Democrats competing for GOP Rep. John Faso’s Hudson Valley seat as an example.

Democrats have focused recently on issues including the Russia investigations, protecting DACA recipients from deportation and gun restrictions after the Parkland, Florida, massacre.

But some Democrats say there’s much to criticize in the GOP tax law. Democratic consultant Brad Bannon said party members should highlight corporate tax cuts that are permanent while those for individuals expire, and that Medicare and Social Security may be cut to plug deficits created by the tax bill.

“That’s got to be the focus on the message — that the tax law was a bait-and-switch,” Bannon said of the threat to entitlements.

During the congressional recess this week, Pelosi is holding events in the Southwest and in California to denounce what Democrats are branding as the “GOP tax scam.” Schumer and House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley (D-Queens) recently have tweeted the phrase.

Long Island is unusual in that Democrats and Republicans have united to fight the $10,000 cap on deductions for state and local property, income and sales taxes because it hurts their constituents more than others around the country.

But Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) said Democrats nationally need to “wake up” when it comes to messaging.

“The Democrats came out with a good message last summer,” he said of Schumer’s pitched for “A Better Deal” focused on higher wages and lowering the cost of living for families. “But it should have been bulked up with details by now.”

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