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House Democrats come together to work on a messaging strategy to attract voters

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

House Democrats are meeting in Baltimore. They're making plans to flip a few seats in the next election if they can and win back control of the House. Those very few seats matter a lot. For two years, as you may recall, Democrats held narrow control of both the House and Senate, which meant they could pass a lot of their agenda. Now Republicans decide what's voted on in the House, which generally means the Democrats cannot pass anything unless Republicans agree to schedule the vote. Republicans control committees. They control investigations. That is what Democrats hope to change. And NPR congressional reporter Barbara Sprunt has been listening to them in Baltimore, one of my favorite cities. Barbara, good morning.

BARBARA SPRUNT, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: OK. So we should note that President Biden spoke to the House Democrats. Here's a little bit of what he had to say.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: If we did nothing, nothing but implement what we've already passed and let the people know who did it for them, we win.

INSKEEP: Interesting. Is that true, though?

SPRUNT: Well, it's hard to say at this point. 2024 remains a ways away. But it does give Democrats a strategy, a record to run on. Biden pointed to the bipartisan infrastructure bill, legislation to boost the domestic manufacturing of semiconductor chips. And he made the case to lawmakers last night that it's politically beneficial for them to go home to their districts and simply explain to voters what they've done.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: Folks, y'all know how much we've gotten done. But a lot of the country still doesn't know it. That's why the big job in front of us is implementing the laws we passed so people start to see it in their lives, all the benefits that are there because you produced it for them. You stepped up and got it done.

SPRUNT: He talked about getting shovels in the ground and cranes in the air on the infrastructure front. And he referenced a tunnel, as an example of one of these infrastructure projects, that's being rebuilt here in Baltimore. He pulled up a mock-up of a sign for the renamed tunnel called the Frederick Douglass Tunnel. And it had the words President Joe Biden at the top with big letters, so a very visual example of how Democrats want to, you know, take credit for these projects and stay fresh in voters' minds. He was really in his element in the speech. In many ways, it's a speech he's given before. We saw a lot of this messaging during the State of the Union. And it really built on that.

INSKEEP: What was the dynamic between Biden and House Democrats like?

SPRUNT: Well, this is a reminder of how much difference a year can make. The dynamic has changed quite a bit. At one point, Biden traveled up to Capitol Hill to plead with Democrats for unity. You'll remember there were significant splits between centrists and progressive Democrats, who couldn't agree on the price tag for major legislation like Build Back Better.

INSKEEP: Oh, yeah.

SPRUNT: But now, as you said, Democrats are in the minority. They find themselves not just uniting against the GOP majority, but also uniting around Biden himself.

INSKEEP: Well, is it clear, then, how House Democrats are going to wage this campaign?

SPRUNT: Well, in the reality of that divided government, you know, Democrats will have a hard time passing new legislation. They do seem on board with the strategy that Biden outlined last night to defend what's already been done and make sure voters back home know about it.

INSKEEP: NPR's Barbara Sprunt. Thanks, as always

SPRUNT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.