Even in the wealthy Texas suburbs, the GOP is struggling to sell its tax cut

Republicans at house after house in this upper middle-class neighborhood — a group of voters the GOP desperately needs to excite to the polls this November — aren’t particularly enthusiastic about the party’s most-prized accomplishment in Washington.

“I’m an ex-stock broker, don’t get me started on this,” San Antonio resident Bill Chapman said of the GOP’s overhaul of the U.S. tax code.

Chapman answered the door in his workout clothes on a rainy Monday afternoon in his gated neighborhood. “We’re going to pay the price for this sometime down the road....It’s going to be a drag on the economy.”

Headed into a midterm election where Republicans are expected to face a tough battle maintaining their majority in the House, the party’s sweeping tax law has hardly been the political bonanza GOP leaders once hoped.

The Republican-led Congress passed the legislation without the help of a single Democrat last year, triggering the biggest drop in the corporate tax rate in American history and lower taxes for most people.

The new law is expected to save the average Texas family of four an estimated $2,200 per year, a benefit that was expected to help Republicans in the five Texas districts being targeted by national Democrats this year.

While GOP leaders credit the tax cut for a booming national economy they hope will help them in the midterms, a survey conducted by the GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies for the Republican National Committee last month suggested nearly two-thirds of voters believed the cuts benefit “large corporations and rich Americans” over “middle-class families.”

Even in this prosperous San Antonio neighborhood — where residents are expected to be among the law’s biggest individual beneficiaries — not a single Republican reached by volunteers from the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC this week could say definitively whether it would cause them to pay less in taxes in the coming year.

“I suppose maybe less?” one woman answered when asked about how the law would affect the amount she personally pays in taxes. “It probably won’t make it any worse,” added the woman, who plans to support Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, the local congressman. She asked not to be named in this story.

For the latest updates on the 2018 Texas midterms, follow along here and sign up for news alerts here. To support more elections coverage like this, click here for a digital-only subscription.

Like others in her gated community, the woman’s past participation in Republican primaries landed her in a database of voters targeted by the super PAC in the final weeks before the election. Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to take control of the House in 2018, and apathy among Republican voters such as the ones in this neighborhood are among the GOP’s top concerns in that election.

Flyers handed out by CLF volunteers in Hurd’s district play up the tax issue by criticizing his opponent, Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones, who it says would raise taxes. The fund has close ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and has raised more than $100 million to help Republicans hold the House — in large part from corporations benefiting from the tax bill.

Courtney Alexander, CLF communications director, who accompanied the door knockers, said the law’s biggest benefit has been helping the GOP paint “an economic contrast” between the two parties.

“If the Democrats were back in charge, your taxes would go up,” said Alexander.

Among the GOP’s wealthy, well-educated supporters reached by the super PAC that day, all said they planned to support Republicans this fall. Yet the tax bill is hardly a top motivator, in a district Democrat Hillary Clinton carried by 3 percentage points in 2018.

“They did it, I think, to get re-elected, and that’s morally wrong,” said Chapman, the retired stockbroker, who still plans to support Republicans this fall. “[But] most of these people [in the neighborhood] are benefiting from capitalism and when you go Democrat… it doesn’t make sense.”

Still, Democrats see potential in voters like Chapman, whose enthusiasm is dampening for the Republican Party. Their own ads highlight a report from the Congressional Budget Office suggesting it will add more than $1 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

“You young folks are going to get shafted,” Chapman told the college student door-knocking for the super PAC on Hurd’s behalf. “Everybody’s benefiting to a point, but with a $21 trillion dollar [federal debt], you can’t keep adding to debt on debt on debt.”

Andrea Drusch is the Washington Correspondent for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at adrusch@mcclatchydc.com; @andreadrusch