President Donald Trump plans an aggressive travel schedule, taking him to as many as 13 states over the next seven weeks, to sell the idea of a tax overhaul as the administration tries to avoid repeating the communications failures of its attempt to repeal Obamacare.
With a make-or-break legislative battle looming on taxes, the White House is moving to clean up a disorganized communications operation, said four people familiar with the effort.
The strategy was revealed by top advisers to about 40 allies during a closed-door meeting last week. It calls for the president to visit states he won where a Democratic senator is up for re-election next year, including Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, said three people who attended. The people asked not to be identified discussing
internal strategy. In some instances, cabinet members will be deployed behind Trump in a
“second wave” after the president’s speeches and town hall meetings to amplify his message.
White House officials held the private meeting on Sept. 8 to share details on its political strategy for tax legislation with allies who can deliver the message on cable news and in local media interviews. Separately, they’re prepping economists such as Arthur Laffer, Lawrence Kudlow and Stephen Moore, who served as informal
advisers to Trump’s campaign.
Top communications staffers were at the meeting, including White House communications director Hope Hicks, counselor Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Cliff Sims, a messaging strategist.
The administration plans to mount the full-bore sales campaign even though congressional Republicans haven’t yet determined key elements of the plan, including tax brackets for individuals, a corporate tax rate, what popular tax advantages will be eliminated or even whether the changes will be permanent or temporary. It’s unclear when additional details will emerge.
But White House officials have concluded that, even without a specific tax plan, Trump can build support early by making a broad case for lower rates, a simpler tax code and more incentives for multinational corporations based in the US to bring home profits stashed overseas.
Trump has already tested this strategy with trips to two states, Missouri and North Dakota, that he carried in 2016 and that are represented by a Democratic senator facing re-election in 2018. He also plans to make time for another stop next week, even though he is scheduled to attend the United
Nations General Assembly in New York Sept. 19 through 21.
A lack of planning and coordination hampered the White House’s effort on health care and other legislative fights, said several people tapped by the White House to serve as surrogates on tax reform.
“It didn’t put them on the best footing to be successful,” said James Davis, executive vice president of Freedom Partners, a group partially funded by the Koch brothers. “This is vastly different the level of engagement than what we saw in health care.”