Kevin McCarthy wants to arm his caucus for the 2022 battle

For Republicans to win back the majority in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said GOP candidates, whether they are incumbents or challengers, must spend time with voters in their communities and come up with solutions about their concerns.

The House minority leader said spending time focusing on the latest outrage on social media or the daily spectacles coming out of Washington, D.C., won’t get them anywhere.

“The most important thing is to listen to people, because when you listen, you’ll hear the concerns, and you’ll be prepared to be able to find ways to solve them,” said McCarthy in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

The Californian stressed that the path forward for Republicans does not go through the Beltway. “The Republicans’ road to the majority bypasses Washington, D.C., and that means bypassing Washington, D.C., press as well,” he said. “Our focus is on the hardworking American taxpayer; that is where our focus is going to be. You’ve got millions of kids who are out of school, and they’ve been out of school for more than a year. You’ve got people out of work. Why aren’t we focused on the two fundamental items that put us back on track?”

The House leader has been in the national spotlight for the past two weeks, beginning with the conference vote that ousted former Rep. Liz Cheney  from leadership and his decision not to support legislation for a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

McCarthy said his problem with the commission was how broad it was. “And it’s the point I’ve made the whole time, the scope,” he said. “Nancy Pelosi’s been trying to play games with this.” Why, he asked, does it not cover other safety breaches that have affected either members of congress or the Capitol complex itself, such as the 2017 shooting at a Republican congressional baseball practice or the fatal attack on Capitol Police on April 2?

“If we’re going to have a commission that looks at, for the security of the House, why wouldn’t we include those?” he asked. “Why would we try to exclude that?”

Last week, the Democratic-led House voted to create an independent commission on the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol. The bill passed 252-175, with 35 Republicans voting in support of the commission.

McCarthy is where many minority leaders of their party have found themselves ahead of the last three wave election cycles: Trying to bring together a fractured but energized party itching to be in the majority but not quite there in terms of developing their message.

In the 1994 wave election cycle, then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich rolled out “The Contract with America” just six weeks before that cycle’s midterm elections. The document offered up detailed legislative actions with a promise to uphold them. The strategy worked, and for the first time in 40 years, Republicans won a majority in the House.

In the 2006 cycle, Democrats succeeded by finding centrist candidates to run in swing districts and combined that with values-messaging that was not overtly partisan. The gamble worked, and despite the fracture between the left wing of the party and its new centrist officeholders, Democrats picked up 31 seats in the House, and Pelosi became the first female speaker.

Four years later, then-House Minority Leader John Boehner held together yet another fractured party ahead of the 2010 midterm elections. It was filled with traditional conservatives and establishment types.

McCarthy says his priority and message right now for voters is bringing the country “back to normal.” Like Gingrich, Pelosi, and Boehner, he too faces a fractured party, with a conservative populist wing making up the majority and the rest holding lingering resentment toward former president Donald Trump.

Republicans surprised everyone last fall, including themselves, when their party picked up 14 seats in the 2020 presidential elections in a year they were predicted to lose 15 — the Senate majority won by Democrats was the smallest for any party since 2000, when Republicans won 221 seats.

So how does McCarthy expect to capitalize on last year’s gains when much of the cultural curators such as the larger media, Hollywood, big corporations, and the major sports leagues are all pushing against anything conservatives stand for? He says that is easy, go directly to the people, and don’t just remind them who has their back, show them.

“It’s just not part of a message. It’s what we do,” he said.

 Salena Zito  is  a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner.