GOP Prepares Members to Go Out Swinging

Party Hoping to Recapture the Momentum of Last Summer's Health-Care-Fueled Public Outrage

Posted July 20, 2010 at 6:35pm

House Republican leaders are hoping to recapture the wave of public discontent they rode successfully last summer and are planning to spend the weeks leading up to the August recess prepping their Members to return to their districts and make the case for a GOP takeover of the House.

August 2009 marked a turning point for the then-demoralized House Republican minority, which had spent the start of the 111th Congress grappling with a second round of electoral losses.

But soon after Congress adjourned last year, videos of Democrats being lambasted by constituents angry about the health care bill and a whole host of other issues became omnipresent on television and the Internet. Republicans began to sense momentum swinging back in their favor.

Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), who heads the GOP agenda project “America Speaking Out,” said it would be tough to re-create the enthusiasm of August since the passion created by the health care reform debate has cooled.

“It’s tough because the last August had the [health care reform bill] hanging before it so there was something out there, something to fight,” McCarthy said, adding that one 2009 town hall in his district attracted 3,000 people. “I think last year was critical because that’s what really spurred the town halls and the debate.”

“This time you not only have to go back and talk about the lack of [action] here, but how can we make it better? How can we change it?” he said.

McCarthy said this recess would mark a second phase of America Speaking Out.

He explained that Members will be encouraged to use town hall meetings to present to their constituents solutions House Republicans have gathered from AmericaSpeakingOut.com instead of simply accumulating more ideas or complaints about the country’s problems.

“Remember how we said we’d start wide and then narrow the idea and then narrow that idea further? This is part of that process,” he said.

McCarthy said House leaders will hold a series of conference calls with Members over the break in order to get feedback about what they are hearing from their districts.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said Republicans will continue to hammer the theme that Democrats are leading the country in the wrong direction.

“Our candidates will be on offense as their Democrat opponents come home,” the Texas Republican said. “Our candidates will have an opportunity to tout the ideas that we believe can address the No. 1 issue — which we believe is job creation.”

Before the House adjourns for the summer, House Republicans leaders will host a series of meeting for Members and their staffs to outline some of their plans for the six-week break.

Republican chiefs of staff will meet Wednesday, and a special meeting of the House Republican Conference will take place Thursday, according to several internal e-mails obtained by Roll Call.

Barry Jackson, chief of staff to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), in an e-mail to Republican chiefs of staff Monday called the recess period “pivotal weeks in our effort to regain the confidence of the American people.”

Jackson said leadership developed a six-week plan for Members in order to ensure they will use the time away from Washington, D.C., to draw distinctions between them and their Democratic counterparts. The plan includes prerecorded videos that leaders will send Members throughout the recess offering “fresh content” on various topics.

“Our events, meetings, and forums will continue to show that we have ideas and are prepared to lead,” Jackson wrote.

McCarthy said America Speaking Out will also have six “theme weeks” on the website that will help focus the conversation on a single topic such as jobs, spending or government reform.

Jackson predicted that Democrats would avoid “open forums” and “hide” from their constituents, giving Republicans the opportunity to highlight their alternative policy ideas.

“It is imperative that we stay on offense in closing our argument that Republicans are prepared to lead America back to prosperity and fiscal discipline,” Jackson wrote. Wednesday’s briefing for the chiefs of staff will include a guide for “how we plan to ask Members to be engaged back home in their districts.”

Jackson also asked the chiefs to provide GOP leadership with a list of public events their Members plan to hold so they can be compiled into a comprehensive calendar.