House GOP launches new outreach website with hopes of regaining majority

Jon Ward Contributor
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Republicans want you to know: John Boehner has more Facebook friends than Nancy Pelosi.

House Republicans rolled out a slick new website and public engagement program Tuesday, and told the press they are more hip to that Internet thing than Democrats.

“When it comes to new media, House Republicans have gone from making progress to taking the lead,” said Rep. Kathy McMorris Rogers, Washington Republican, who noted that House Republicans have “tweeted” on Twitter five times as much as Democrats.

McMorris-Rogers promised that the new Republican web platform, titled “America Speaking Out,” is “going to revolutionize the use of new media.”

It’s a high goal for a project that House Republicans are launching a few months before fall midterm elections in which they expect to recapture control of the House. Their goal is to solicit ideas from every day Americans on how to apply conservative goals in government.

But Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, said adamantly: “It’s not a listening tour.”

“House Republicans know what we believe,” said Pence, but added that “the American people know better than elected officials about what putting those principles in to practice really looks like.”

Pence and other House GOP leaders presented their new site in front of an elaborate, made-for-TV set at the Newseum, a few blocks from the Capitol.

Having come under criticism from Democrats for using money for official government use to fund a project that appears politically timed, Republicans also swore that their chief goal was to include Americans in the process of governing, and that they would consider proposing ideas submitted on the site as soon as within weeks.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, said that if the GOP releases a comprehensive plan for governance similar to the 1994 “Contract with America” that Republicans presented prior to taking over the House, that would be a separate enterprise. He indicated that the new website would at the very least be a vehicle for funneling ideas into such a proposal.

“Over the course of the next three months we’re going to continue to work with the American people … in terms of developing what that is. We don’t know what it’s going to be,” Boehner said.

The site had already received nearly 400 ideas on Tuesday, which ranged across the ideological spectrum.

Ideas included monitoring Muslims in the U.S. more closely for signs of terrorist sympathies, which had received a handful of mostly disapproving votes, to ending the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with regard to gays in the military, which had received mostly positive responses.

One submission by a person with the screen name “Donala” said, “I really don’t believe that the GOP or the Dems really want to change … I changed my party affiliation to Independent just this past week.”

That post had received 11 votes, on the high end for a submission at this point, almost all of them approving of Donala’s sentiments.

House Republicans will hold public forums with voters in the coming weeks and months to promote the new site.

This is the second major new media public engagement effort launched by Republicans in the last few weeks. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor began soliciting ideas on his website earlier this month on what government spending Americans would most like to see eliminated.

More than 280,000* people voted in the first week of Cantor’s “YouCut” program, and nominated emergency welfare spending to be cut.

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*This article originally stated incorrectly that 180,000 people voted.