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House GOP Conference Forms Message Action Team

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) has created a new “Message Action Team” to help hone a unified theme.

The group includes 30 lawmakers from across the Republican spectrum, mixing veterans, freshmen and experts in various policy areas.

“It’s sort of an inner circle of people that are willing to meet and talk about the message and help develop it and help deliver it,” Pryce said in a recent interview. “These are people who are good on camera and good on their feet. We need to have a cadre of willing folks when the press calls.”

The team does not include any committee chairmen or members of leadership, but it does have several senior lawmakers as well as six freshmen — Reps. Katherine Harris (Fla.), Candice Miller (Mich.), Bob Beauprez (Colo.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Tim Murphy (Pa.) and Chris Chocola (Ind.).

The Conference has distributed surveys to the 30 Members asking them which policy areas they feel most comfortable discussing; the results will allow aides to steer the press in the right direction. The group has already begun meeting every Thursday afternoon, though the day may change.

Elsewhere on the message front, Pryce said Republican leaders had decided that outside speakers would no longer be invited to speak at full Conference meetings.

“The problem with the Conference is that we have a lot of internal business that we just can’t get done when we have a lot of external speakers,” she explained.

Guests will still be invited to speak to smaller Republican gatherings, such as meetings of the Conference’s “Theme Team.”

The main concern, according to Republican staffers, is with guest speakers who come to Conference meetings and then get to listen to what lawmakers consider to be private discussions.

“There has been more than one occasion where Members have been concerned about all sorts of folks who are routinely offered access to the Conference and then stay” for the whole meeting, said a senior GOP leadership aide.

Several Republican sources said they suspected the policy change was aimed at message guru Frank Luntz, a sometime guest speaker. Because he also advises private clients, some Republicans are uncomfortable with letting him hear the Conference’s deliberations.

But Pryce said the change was a general one not aimed at any particular speaker. “Frank’s a valuable friend,” she said.

Luntz was in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, on Friday and did not respond to a request for comment.

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