Extending Bush Tax Cuts Could Be GOP Ticket to Victory

Republicans need to do more. But in a weak economy, tax hikes on the middle class could help the GOP win more seats.

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Allow me to chime in where my bloleagues Robert Schlesinger and Peter Roff left off. They were responding to a new Gallup Poll which shows that registered U.S. voters now--by a narrow margin--prefer to have the Democrats in charge in Congress after the next election.

This is fantastic news for Democrats, who are expecting to lose lots of seats in the U.S. House and Senate. Large losses are typical for the party in power in an off-year (non-presidential year) election. The GOP is hoping of course that Democrats lose enough seats that they will regain control of both chambers. Some Democrats (including White House spokesman Robert Gibbs) have allowed the possibility to escape their lips that, yes, their party could lose one or both chambers. Any Democrat who has said that publicly has been chastised and recanted.

[See a slide show of 5 key issues in the 2010 elections.]

I think predictions even at this stage, while fun to discuss and banter about, are largely unreliable. If the Dow Jones Industrial Average, for example, returns to the 11,000 mark and there are one or two months of decent job growth between now and November, the outlook for Democrats will be quite different than it is today. 

Labor Day is the marker for me. Once the kids go back to school, Congress is in recess and members are home campaigning, then we can get serious about who is going to lose how much at the polls in the fall.

Meanwhile, my bloleague Peter Roff advises Republicans to start standing "for" something instead of just opposing most Democratic programs.

I think they already have an issue: tax hikes. Unless Congress acts this year, all the Bush tax cuts enacted in 2003 expire by the end of the year. That means every family living on $75,000 per year or more will see taxes rise if Congress does nothing. According to the Springfield News-Sun:

Republicans are pressing to extend all the tax cuts for everyone. They insist it is folly to raise anyone’s taxes as the economy struggles to recover from last year’s crippling recession. They contend that taking money from anybody will hinder private investment, which will slow economic growth. 

I agree with my bloleague that Republicans need to do more. But in a weak economy, tax hikes on the middle class (and any family living $75,000 per year in or near a big city knows one good salary or two average salaries does not make the family rich), if played properly, could help the GOP win more seats.