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Congress / HOUSE

GOP Freshmen Hone Their Message

One reporter has a "meta" moment as seven House freshmen discuss communications.

Seated at a conference table, House Republican Freshmen, from left, Jeff Duncan, Morgan Griffith, Adam Kinzinger, Cory Gardner, Steve Southerland, Tim Scott (speaking) and Trey Gowdy (arm on table) hold a meeting to talk about their messages to the public at the Longworth House Office Building on Thursday.(Chet Susslin)

photo of Ben Terris
February 9, 2012

Does the Republican Party have a messaging problem?

Members of the House freshman class seem to think so. And in order to try and remedy the situation, seven of them met on Thursday morning in a Longworth House Office Building conference room, to discuss what they needed to be better at communicating to the American people. They also invited one member of the media to hear them message about messaging. It was all very "meta."

Rep. Tim Scott, R-S.C., organized the meeting with Reps. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Steve Southerland of Florida, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Trey Gowdy and Jeff Duncan, both from South Carolina.

 

“The party’s messaging could be better,” said Scott. His belief, he said, is that the 87 freshmen elected in 2010 “formed a firewall” to keep the economy from getting worse, and that they needed to be better at “owning part of the ship.”

Everyone in the room expressed the sentiment that they had helped change the conversation in Washington from how much to spend to how much to cut. It has been the mantra of the class.

But is that a strong enough message? Having stormed Congress last year, the expectations were incredibly high for the class. It’s something that Gowdy said in the meeting he wished they’d nipped in the bud: "We should have tempered the euphoria from the fall of 2010.... The people saw this wave of freshmen, and we should have done a better job of saying the best we can do is stop bad ideas from happening.”

Duncan suggested that the GOP would benefit by spending a little extra money on some outside help.

“We have money at our discretion as far as our conference goes,” he said. “Why not hire the best in the business and help really craft our message?”

It’s advice that the class is already looking into. According to Scott, within the next month pollster Frank Luntz will join the freshmen in one of their closed-door class meetings to figure out the best way to market their ideas. Luntz's office so far hasn't returned National Journal's calls.

The group discussed a number of areas they’d like to focus on. Gardner mentioned that it made sense to hammer President Obama on his “all of the above unless it’s really all of the above” energy policy, and Southerland said he believed they should “heighten” the conversation about health care.

Gowdy said it’s all about trying to “draw the causal link” between issues like energy independence and jobs. It was at this moment that the former trial lawyer leaned back in his chair to think about what he said for a quick moment. He then told the group there was one pitfall that could arise if they talked about jobs too much -- something no new member wants to have happen.

“We may begin to sound like politicians,” he said.  

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