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Democrats Unveil Their Economic Pitch Ahead of 2018 Midterm Elections


Democrats have a lot to figure out after Republicans took Congress and the White House last November, so today Democratic Party leaders left the Beltway for a town park in Virginia to launch their new branding effort. They hope a more focused message will help them regain popularity with voters and maybe even retake control of the House next year. Here's NPR's Brian Naylor.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: They stood in the midday heat - the men with their shirtsleeves rolled up in the picturesque town park in Berryville behind a podium that read, a better deal. The town was chosen for its scenic quality and also because it's in the 10th Congressional District, one Democrats hope to flip in 2018. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer conceded what polls have shown - that voters know Democrats are against President Trump but need more.


CHUCK SCHUMER: Too many Americans don't know what we stand for - not after today. President Trump campaigned on a populist platform talking to working people. That's why he won. But as soon as he got into office, he abandoned them.

NAYLOR: Schumer outlined a populist agenda, calling for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, lowering prices on prescription drugs by allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, and encouraging companies to provide training and apprenticeships through tax credits. And while some of these proposals are tried-and-true Democratic warhorses, Schumer took a page from the progressive Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren wing of the party, saying old-fashioned capitalism has broken down.


SCHUMER: We're going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers...


SCHUMER: ...And to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition.

NAYLOR: The Democrats singled out the airline industry, cable companies and even breweries as examples of where consolidation has hurt consumers. Democratic Senator Mark Warner of Virginia says the political debate inside the Beltway has become stuck in the past.


MARK WARNER: What we're trying to offer here is a better deal that recognizes that a lot of the challenges we face in America today are no longer left versus right or liberal versus conservative, but it's future versus past.

NAYLOR: The better deal agenda has already faced ridicule for sounding like the Papa John's better pizza slogan. A group of Republican protesters emphasized that point today, holding up pizza boxes with a picture of House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and the line, better jobs, better wages, still Pelosi. And voters seemed skeptical about the new campaign. Joseph Colson was down from Baltimore visiting his granddaughter and was unimpressed.

JOSEPH COLSON: I started listening to politicians when Kennedy was running for president. And nothing's changed. The words are all the same.

NAYLOR: And Anita Gallagher from Leesburg, Va., was even more blunt.

ANITA GALLAGHER: I think it's baloney. I was very disappointed. Donald Trump wins the election by appealing to working people, the traditional constituency of the Democratic Party. And they talk about, you know, a few jobs here, a few jobs here, you know, cybersecurity jobs, blah, blah, blah (ph).

NAYLOR: Gallagher wants to see Democrats move further to the left, reflecting that the party still has a ways to go to refine its pitch to win over working people. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Berryville, Va. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.