ORLANDO, Fla. – Former President Donald Trump may be one of the most important influencers in the 2022 election, but House Republicans are huddling without him in his home state of Florida as they craft a message that can help them win back the majority next year.
Lawmakers gathered in Orlando beginning on Sunday for a three day, annual issues conference to help chart a course on messaging and policy priorities for the next 18 months.
Trump, who lives about a two-and-a-half-hour drive south at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, is not attending, GOP leaders said last week. Instead, conservative talkshow host and Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro will serve as the keynote speaker for the event, which is hosted by the Congressional Institute.
Lawmakers began gathering on Sunday at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate. The first event for lawmakers is dinner Sunday night with legendary football Coach Lou Holtz.
On Monday, lawmakers will strategize on “how to work with the press.” They will hear from Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and Trump White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel will address lawmakers at lunch the same day.
The session will focus on top policy issues and how the party should frame them in the months ahead.
Topics include Security and “the threat of the Chinese Communist Party,” with presentations from Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and think-tank experts including Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute.
Lawmakers will talk energy, climate and conservation with Michael Shellenberger, who has challenged climate science motivating liberal energy policies that aim to end fossil fuel and nuclear power. The climate discussion will also feature Rich Powell, the executive director of ClearPath, which works to advance innovative policies that reduce emissions in the energy and industrial sector.
Despite Trump’s absence, lawmakers will have a difficult time avoiding the former president, who has already weighed in on some 2022 candidates and appears to hold a loyal base after he was impeached a second time by the House before leaving office in January.
A faction of Republicans have come out against Trump following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by throngs of angry followers. Among them is House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, who blamed Trump for inciting the attack and voted to impeach him.
Other Republicans continue to stand behind Trump, perhaps most importantly House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, who is poised to become Speaker if Republicans take back the majority.
The GOP is just a few seats away from that goal and is eager to avoid an internal fight that might jeopardize midterm election victories. The plan is to focus on policy and the right kind of messaging.
Rep. Jim Jordan, the top GOP lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee and a staunch Trump ally, is set address the conference on “the future of American freedoms.”
Other policy themes at the conference include “big tech and censorship,” led by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top GOP lawmaker on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Lawmakers will also receive “messaging guidance on hot topics,” from pollsters David Winston and Frank Luntz and will huddle on the economy with Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, who will host a discussion with the Miami Major Francis Suarez.
Suarez, a Republican, met with McCarthy in January to talk about his bid to draw technology firms to his city.
In July, Suarez refused to commit to voting for Trump in November, depriving Trump of a pivotal endorsement ahead of the election. Trump ended up winning Florida by 3.5 percentage points.
Original Author: Susan Ferrechio