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House Members Fight on Message

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner has had more difficulty lately in focusing on the GOP’s message about jobs and the economy. Issues such as Mitt Romney’s tax returns and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s warnings about Islamist infiltration have distracted from the jobs focus.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) begins almost every press conference with the phrase, The American people are still asking: Where are the jobs?

What ensued last week, however, were questions about a range of other topics, for instance presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romneys tax returns and Rep. Michele Bachmanns (R-Minn.) widely maligned warning that Islamic fundamentalists had infiltrated the government.

Indeed, House Republican leaders had some trouble staying on message amid the noise, with topics both parties called sideshows dominating the news narrative.

When Members return today, its also possible that the Colorado shootings and their painful aftermath will be echoing through the halls. Some aides said they could imagine a push for discussion of gun control in the days ahead.

This is a terrible tragedy for all Americans. It is too soon to tell what effect, if any, it will have on the House schedule and agenda, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Still, Members and aides said this weeks push for eased government regulations and next weeks vote on extending all of the Bush-era tax cuts should help shift the focus back to jobs and the economy, where the GOP would like it to be.

During much of last week, Boehner and other GOP communicators expressed frustration at where public debate had gone.

Americans are asking, Where are the jobs? Theyre not asking where in the hell the tax returns are, Boehner said last week. This is another sideshow intended to draw the American peoples attention away from the real issue, and the real issue is that the presidents economic policies have failed.

With President Barack Obamas campaign seemingly ready to bump the favored GOP narrative off course at every turn, Rep. Tom Cole conceded that it can be difficult to break through with a strictly jobs and the economy message.

It is, but look at the presidential level, thats clearly President Obamas campaign trying to throw people off the message, the Oklahoma Republican said. Any time were not talking about jobs and the economy, the deficit and spending, were probably not talking about the right thing.

No matter what comes out of left field, however, the narrative always sways back to the economy the most prominent issue in voters minds, he said.

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