House Republicans are working with a Trump-inspired Washington think tank to craft a midterm election message focused on the party’s defense of freedom and rule of law, The Washington Times has learned.
GOP lawmakers huddled with members of America First Policy Institute on Friday in House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s conference room in the Capitol, honing talking points on rising crime and inflation.
AFPI’s Kellyanne Conway, who served as a senior counselor to former President Donald Trump, told the gathering that their message has to connect with independents and other voters outside the base.
“We’re not in charge of writing Sean Hannity’s monologue every day. He does a great job doing that. That’s not our job. It’s not our job to argue with people on Twitter because none of the swing voters are there,” she said.
Mrs. Conway, who was the first woman to successfully run a presidential campaign when she managed Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, said GOP candidates should give concrete examples of the crime wave battering U.S. cities and personify the issue by making “soft-on-crime” Democratic leaders into household names.
“Crime is the best example right now of the Democrats’ ethos right now of basically saying to America: Don’t believe what you see. Believe what I say,” Mrs. Conway said.
Indeed, voters increasingly view Republicans as the public safety party. A Fox News poll in June showed voters favoring Republicans by 19 points when asked which party better handles crime.
The meeting was hosted by House GOP leadership’s Future of American Freedoms Task Force, which is led by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a member of the task force, said messaging on crime should be universal, rather than directed at the GOP base.
“We should talk about law and order not as a political party issue, but one that’s for every single American,” Mrs. Greene said.
Reps. Carol Miller of West Virginia, Tom McClintock of California, Fred Keller of Pennsylvania, and Burgess Owens of Utah also attended the meeting.
Matthew Whitaker, former acting attorney general in the Trump administration who now co-chairs AFPI’s Center for Law & Justice, said Republicans should highlight crime’s impact on families.
“The message is that every child should be able to play safely in their front yards and they can’t in any major city,” Mr. Whitaker said.
The task force sought to fine-tune the party’s message as House members head home for the August recess and prepare for the onset of heavy campaigning for the Nov. 8 elections, which will be dominated by voters’ concerns about the economy, education and crime.
Those issues, according to AFPI and the task force, give Republicans an added advantage in a year that was already expected to be bullish for the GOP.
Republicans are expected to pick up seats in November and overtake the Democrats’ thin majority in the House.
However, Mrs. Conway warned House Republicans not to talk about 2024, urging them to focus solely on November.
Part of her advice included tying President Biden’s shortcomings to the entire Democratic Party, as he struggles with low approval ratings. She said Republicans have yet to learn how to successfully invoke this strategy, which goes beyond pointing out gaffes in speeches.
“If you make fun of him, you’re creating sympathy and you’re excusing his choices,” Mrs. Conway said.
Democrats, meanwhile, have their own messaging strategy. They are painting the GOP as a threat to democracy and freedom, describing them as far-right extremists or “MAGA Republicans.”
“The threat right now in this country to the American people are extreme MAGA Republicans. That’s the threat. That’s the problem. That’s the crisis that we confront,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York said recently.
Democrats have sought to tie Republicans to the Capitol riot, the end of abortion rights and White supremacists.
At the Republican’s task force meeting, Mr. Jordan said hearing from outside experts helped narrow down policy proposals to present to Mr. McCarthy, who did not attend the meeting.
“It’s helpful when we put together what we need to do to protect Americans’ liberty and highlight the left’s assault on the First Amendment, Second Amendment [and] due process rights,” Mr. Jordan said. “You can’t have real freedom if you don’t have equal treatment under the law.”