Democrats turn to Hollywood for messaging help

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The Democratic National Committee and members of Congress are turning to Hollywood for help with voter turnout and messaging ahead of the midterm elections and 2020 presidential campaign, quietly consulting with a group of actors, writers and producers here.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez, several House members and other top elected officials have already met with the group, formed by members of the entertainment industry in the wake of the 2016 election, that participants liken to a TV writers’ room, complete with producers of such programs as “Veep.” The existence of the group and details of the meetings have not been previously reported.

The group has discussed targeted voter-registration programs with visiting Democrats, as well as the party’s framing of issues ranging from abortion rights to gun control. In one recent meeting, a Midwestern senator sought advice about how to discuss gun control with conservative-leaning voters in his or her state, multiple participants said.

Participants declined to identify the senator or other elected officials who have visited.

“We’re a messaging strike force, mostly around voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts,” said Mathew Littman, a former Joe Biden speechwriter who helped to organize the group with Stephanie Daily Smith, a political consultant based in Los Angeles.

The group is primarily focused on programs to increase voter registration, and the DNC’s involvement is limited to that effort. Participants say they are developing programs targeting young people, black voters and Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria a potentially significant voting bloc for the Democratic Party in Florida and other key states.

But the meetings have also served as an opportunity to address broader messaging issues, with several House members explicitly requesting help on speech writing and overall messaging, participants said. In meetings with candidates and DNC officials, group members have urged the party to adopt a more aggressive communications strategy than the party mustered in a demoralizing 2016 presidential campaign.

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