Republican Midterm Election Strategy With Democrats predicted to take back the House in November, NPR's Michel Martin talks Republican midterm strategy with Jesse Hunt, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
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Republican Midterm Election Strategy

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Republican Midterm Election Strategy

Republican Midterm Election Strategy

Republican Midterm Election Strategy

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With Democrats predicted to take back the House in November, NPR's Michel Martin talks Republican midterm strategy with Jesse Hunt, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to start the program today with a look at national politics as the primary season kicks off in earnest. Four states are holding primaries on Tuesday. So we thought this was a good time to check in on how Republicans and Democrats are seeing their respective strategies ahead of the November midterms. By now, you've certainly heard many pollsters predict that Democrats will retake control of the House of Representatives. We'll hear from a Democrat in a few minutes. But first, Republican Jesse Hunt is with us. He's the press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Their job is to elect as many Republicans as possible to the House. He was kind of to join us in our studios in Washington, D.C. Jesse Hunt, thanks so much for joining us.

JESSE HUNT: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Do you see an overall message taking shape for Republicans this year?

HUNT: I do. I think Republicans are rallying around what is one of our top achievements this Congress which is the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which is something that I think has benefited the vast majority of Americans, helped companies give more money back to their employees, helped put more money in people's paychecks. But what you're also seeing was unemployment sink to the lowest level since 2000, 3.9 percent. We finally broke that 4 percent barrier. I think that's a very strong indication of how well the economy is doing, and it's something that Republicans will be able to take to their voters and show that Republican leadership in Washington is really benefiting the American people.

MARTIN: You know, it's interesting that earlier this week - or rather, last week, Marco Rubio had some harsh words about the tax bill, the senator from Florida. He said, there's no evidence whatsoever that the money's been massively poured back into the American worker, and the tax bill wasn't enough to pull, say, the Republican candidate over the line in Pennsylvania in a special election that was held a couple of weeks ago. So is that evidence that the numbers may be strong but that it isn't being experienced at the voter level?

HUNT: First of all, that's the senator's opinion, which, you know, I'll disagree with. And I think Pennsylvania is a very unique - was a very unique case. That was a case of where you had one candidate on the Democrat side who, you know, was well-funded, was able to spend more money than a Republican candidate who wasn't quite as strong. There was a lot of unique factors there in the special election. But I think overwhelmingly what you're seeing is positive economic indicators, be it consumer confidence, wage growth, job creation. In cases where you have Republican incumbents that have actually voted for this piece of legislation, they will be able to go and talk to their constituents and tell them exactly what they're doing, exactly how they're trying to help ease the cost of living and put more money in their pockets.

MARTIN: What we are seeing though is a lot of ads around the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi. We're seeing a tremendous number of ads. In fact, I think one of our colleagues did a count to say that there were more ads about Nancy Pelosi than there were about the tax bill. Why is that?

HUNT: Well, as you saw this week, Nancy Pelosi confirmed what we knew in a conversation with The Boston Globe that if Democrats are able to regain control of the House, she is going to run for speaker. And part of her plan to set an agenda, if she were speaker, involves undoing the GOP tax plan. That's something that both her, Steny Hoyer and Joe Crowley have all said that they plan to do as a way of rallying Democrats around a message. That's their overall objective. So what you are seeing is Nancy Pelosi featured mainly because she is the most-unpopular politician in America.

MARTIN: And on the other side of that, as you know, that President Trump is deeply unpopular with Democrats. We see from the polling that he retains support among a majority of Republicans. But in the November election, Republicans have to face Democrats. And he is considered to be a major factor not just in Democratic enthusiasm but also in Democratic fundraising. Should the president be campaigning with candidates? Should we expect to see him campaigning with candidates?

HUNT: That's on each individual candidate and campaign. No district is the same as another. You know, a district in Minnesota is not the same as a district in South Florida. So it will depend on the candidate, the campaign, their strategies to determine to what extent they want to involve the president.

MARTIN: Do you acknowledge an enthusiasm gap?

HUNT: Certainly some of the actions or things the president has done has certainly angered a lot of the Democratic base, some of the progressive wing, the resistance, if you will. That has, quite frankly, actually hijacked the Democratic Party. And so instead of moderating, moving to the middle, they're just going farther to the left. So they do have energy. That is very real. And we are working to contend with that.

MARTIN: That was Jesse Hunt, press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Their job is to help elect as many Republicans as possible.

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