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GOP Jobs Message Has Had Competition

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner (left) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor are seen at a Wednesday news conference at the Republican National Committee. GOP leaders are struggling to put the focus on the party’s jobs agenda.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) agreed. “As the Speaker said, we have enumerated a list of things and indicated that since the president came to the Hill in the beginning of September — we have said over and over again — there are items that we are going to continue to work on and push forward with that will help grow this economy and get people back to work,” he said.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) has organized weekly “job creator” visits to the Capitol over the past month in an effort to put a human face on the regulations the GOP has targeted for repeal.

“This fall, Whip McCarthy has sought to bring in job creators from across the country to Washington in order for everyone to understand the very real negative impact of the Obama administration’s proposed regulatory agenda. These regulations are not merely words in the Federal Register; they have a direct effect on the everyday business decisions of American job creators, large and small,” McCarthy Press Secretary Erica Elliott said Wednesday.

But the reality for Republicans is that circumstances have conspired against them to limit the effectiveness of that message.

Part of the difference between the spending and jobs messaging has been the immediacy.

“We’ve had to focus on other things primarily because of hard and fast deadlines” like the continuing resolution, budget resolution and this summer’s debt ceiling debate, one aide said. Those battles distracted the GOP from its job agenda but also provided focal points for its spending message.

“The CR and the debt limit were must-pass bills [and] all of the oxygen got sucked out of the room,” a second aide said. “Now ... when you look at all of the other things going on at the same time, it’s hard to get people to pay attention.”

Republicans have also been hurt by the fact that much of their work, particularly this fall, does not always have connections to job creation that voters can easily identify. Repealing regulations may be high on the list for business groups but “not everybody assumes that regulations negatively affect jobs. That’s the argument we’re trying to make,” a Republican said.

“Which makes it harder and less obvious that people are talking about jobs,” the Republican added.

A GOP aide also pointed to the work of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction. While Republicans view the committee as having a direct correlation to job creation, “it’s not immediately clear that you’re talking about jobs at the end of the super committee,” the aide said.

Boehner, Cantor and their leadership team have also found themselves hurt by internal politics. For instance, despite pleas from leadership to forgo a partisan fight over a short-term CR last month, the party’s right wing forced the issue, prompting a new round of speculation about a potential government shutdown and a week wasted rehashing the spending fight.

Even this week, with its victory on the free-trade agreements, had a distraction as Cantor scheduled a vote on divisive abortion legislation because it was included in last year’s “Pledge to America.”

One aide pointed to the relative lack of coverage of the free trade-votes, noting that in the past they would have been a predominant theme for weeks.

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