Erin Murphy mug

Erin Murphy

Ronna McDaniel wants to help keep Iowa red.

McDaniel, the national chairwoman of the Republican Party, visited Iowa this week to speak at the state party’s annual fall fundraiser.

In addition to her remarks to roughly 550 Iowa Republicans and a 14-minute huddle with Iowa reporters, McDaniel sat down with me for a 1-on-1 interview in which I asked her about Congressional Republicans’ work on tax reform, the 2018 elections in Iowa and Obama-Trump voters.

In the 2016 presidential election, 31 Iowa counties that had voted for Democratic President Barack Obama in 2012 voted for Republican President Donald Trump in 2016. That was the highest number of such counties in the nation.

The challenge facing McDaniel and Republicans is keeping those voters in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

McDaniel said she thinks Trump is well on his way to earning the loyalty of these swing voters.

“The president (Trump) delivered on deregulation. Iowans know what it means to have red tape prevent them from running their farms or growing their businesses. That’s critical: getting government out of the way,” McDaniel said. “Then you’ve seen better trade deals already under President Trump. You’ve seen him take care of our veterans. You’ve seen him invest in our military. And now, if we can do these tax cuts, I think he’s delivering for those voters who were looking for a change in the White House and somebody who was going to represent them instead of the special interests.”

The tax cuts are the top agenda item for Republicans in the nation’s capital. The House and Senate have separate bills with some key differences, but both lower corporate and individual rates, and simplify the tax code by eliminating many deductions.

Congressional Republicans were unable to reach an agreement on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, the health care law created under Obama.

Now the GOP is taking its shot at tax reform in the hopes of not missing twice in a row on one of the party’s biggest campaign promises of the past decade.

“I think health care was harder for a lot of reasons. You had senators representing states that took the Medicaid expansion, and then you had senators who represented states who didn’t, and it was hard for them to come to a compromise on how that was going to work,” McDaniel said. “Tax cuts for the middle class is pretty easy. This is something that Democrats and Republicans should be rallying around.”

McDaniel and Congressional Republicans sell the GOP tax reform bills as middle class tax cuts. But multiple nonpartisan analyses have showed that while those people with the highest levels of income will see significant relief, some middle-class wage earners could actually see a tax increase.

“You’re going to have simpler taxes. Most people will be able to do it on one sheet of paper," McDaniel said. "You’re going to cut taxes for businesses so we can create better jobs and wages in this country. And then we’re going to bring money that’s been parked in other countries back to the United States so that we can again create jobs.”

But an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center this week said under the House GOP plan 9 percent of tax filers who earn between $48,600 and $86,100 would pay more taxes next year and 31 percent would pay more in 10 years.

That’s similar to the findings of the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan fiscal estimating agency for Congress, and the Tax Foundation, a tax policy think tank.

House Republicans have said the analyses do not take into account potential economic growth that may be spurred by tax reform.

“These things are intended to get our economy humming and help the middle class,” McDaniel said. “I feel confident that we’re going to get that done. Republicans are on the right path.”

McDaniel said she wants to keep Republicans on the same path in Iowa, which has become increasingly red, politically speaking, with the 2014 and 2016 elections.

Neither of the state’s U.S. senators are up for re-election, but the national party plans to help defend swing-district Congressmen Rod Blum in northeastern Iowa and David Young in central Iowa.

“We know those are going to be competitive districts and we’re already investing in Iowa to make sure that we keep those seats,” McDaniel said.

And the party also plans to target longtime Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack in southeastern Iowa, McDaniel said.

Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net.

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