House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has given his GOP colleagues new marching orders for stump speeches between now and November, as incumbents worry about how President Trump's own challenges may strain their re-election bids.

Driving the news: McCarthy delivered a PowerPoint presentation to the GOP conference in person last Thursday at the Capitol Visitor Center, with several members joining via Zoom, lawmakers and aides familiar with the gathering tell Axios.

  • He sent a follow-up email the next morning to members with an anecdote about President John F. Kennedy's first visit to NASA in 1962, when he met a janitor and asked what he did for the space agency.
  • "The janitor famously replied: 'I am helping to put a man on the moon,'" McCarthy wrote, concluding that America was able to win the space race because "everyone — from the President of the United States down to the custodians — clearly understood the mission and worked towards it each day."

What they're saying: McCarthy tells Axios he hopes members weave this messaging into their committee work, constituent outreach in the fall and upcoming legislation as well.

  • "If we win the majority this is what we'd pass," he said. "It's our vision for the future."

The details: The plan highlights "three R's" that Republicans should exhaust on the campaign trail this fall.

  1. "Renew the American Dream" (focused on individuals): School choice, workforce training, expanding broadband in rural communities & 5G, protecting individual freedoms.
  2. "Restore our Way of Life" (focused on communities): Defeating the coronavirus, protecting Americans' health, reopening safely and responsibly, ensuring safe neighborhoods.
  3. "Rebuild the Greatest Economy Ever" (a nationwide goal): Tax deregulation, fixing roads & bridges, "America First" and China-critical messaging around trade and supply chains.

The messaging also ascribes "three Ds" to Democrats:

  1. "Defund our police, border patrol, and military."
  2. "Dismantle our social, economic, and political institutions."
  3. "Destroy our small businesses and entrepreneurs with crushing taxes and regulation" — the GOP leader pointed to the destruction of monuments during recent protests.

Behind the scenes: Many GOP members have been anxious about polling showing Trump trailing Joe Biden in key swing states, lawmakers tell Axios.

  • Some "were scared" when Trump didn’t have a good answer upon being asked in a recent interview to detail his second term strategy, one GOP lawmaker said.
  • That led several members to ask McCarthy to produce some sort of united agenda.
  • In an open-mic session after McCarthy's presentation, members including Randy Weber (R-Tex.) gave him a round of applause and shared their plans for the fall.

Republican House members and candidates running for office will adjust the messaging to fit the issues that resonate most with their district, one lawmaker said, but the core messaging is the same.

  • Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) said she plans to emphasize the digital divide and broadband access.
  • Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) told Axios said he'll play up the China and trade aspect of the platform. "Messaging is challenging, in the midst of a pandemic," he said. "People were asking for this. Members want focus and structure. We as Republicans especially need it in order to be effective if we're given the keys of power again."

Several GOP lawmakers told Axios that they hope the Trump campaign will also embrace this messaging.

  • ”I think the President's campaign should adopt it, which we saw Donald Trump do in 2016, following the convention," said Rep. James French Hill (R-Ark.) recalling the campaign's adoption of some of then-House Speaker Paul Ryan's “Better Way” principles.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Updated Sep 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's next moves in Supreme Court fight

Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

President Trump told "Fox & Friends" on Monday that he plans to announce his pick to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court on Friday or Saturday.

The state of play: Axios has heard that Trump's choices to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are down to two women, both federal appeals court judges. The frontrunners are Amy Coney Barrett of Chicago, the early favorite, and Barbara Lagoa, who is viewed as easier to confirm. The Senate confirmed Lagoa 80-15 last year, so many Democrats have already voted for her.

TikTok's content-moderation time bomb

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When the dust finally clears from the fight over TikTok, whoever winds up running the burgeoning short-video-sharing service is likely to face a world of trouble trying to manage speech on it.

Why it matters: Facebook’s story already shows us how much can go wrong when online platforms beloved by passionate young users turn into public squares.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
39 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Zooming in on China's new energy plan

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Major climate news arrived on Tuesday when Chinese President Xi Jinping said China would aim for "carbon neutrality" by 2060 and a CO2 emissions peak before 2030.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter. So its success or failure at reining in planet-warming gases affects everyone's future.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!