WARREN, Mich.: The banner behind Trent Lott read "Listening to America... Tax Cuts for Everyone." But what if America isn't asking for them? Lott joined a handful of Michigan GOPers on Monday for a very Clintonesque town hall meeting -- the first of 150 that congressional Republicans have planned for this year -- to push the party's last best anti-Clinton issue: a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut. "Should it be spent on a myriad of federal programs, or should it be returned to the people?" Lott asked hopefully -- but according to the New York Times, support for the idea, even in front of this crowd of party loyalists, was less than unanimous. TIME White House correspondent Jay Branegan thinks the Republicans' standout issue may be a loser.
"The polls are showing that people are feeling wealthy and would rather pay down the national debt than pay less taxes," he says. Republican leaders have already copped to Clinton's plan to use 62 percent of the budget surplus to save Social Security (which is also his debt-reduction plan). Now they have to pick a good fight with the President over how to spend the rest -- but they've had trouble convincing Americans that Lott's tax cuts and Clinton's debt reduction can be paid for with the same budget. That pits tax cuts against a lot of Clinton goodies -- from education to Medicare to more cops on the streets -- that people are feeling pretty generous about. And they're not feeling so good about the Republicans.