Congressional Democrats, with a new slogan in hand, launched a public campaign Monday to rebrand themselves in the wake of 2016 election losses that handed total control of Washington to the Republicans.
"We are back," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said at a news conference in Berryville, Va. “Democrats will show the country we are the party on the side of working people.”
As Democrats tried to rebrand as the party offering "a better deal" for voters, Republicans panned the effort as little more than "recycled" talking points. Their new slogan -- formally titled “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future” -- also has faced criticism from Democratic speechwriters.
But many Democrats are now acknowledging their party failed to communicate a winning message to voters last year, and the broader point behind Monday's relaunch is to focus more on jobs and other kitchen-table issues.
New York Sen. Schumer was joined at Monday's event by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, and other rank-and-file Democrats from the House and Senate.
“We must have a strong middle class,” Pelosi said. “Essential to the strength of the middle class is the financial stability of the working family. And essential to that are bigger paychecks.”
Democrats held the event in GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock’s district, a seat that's a top target in the party's bid to retake the House next year.
Their new slogan follows months of internal debate and analysis involving polling and focus groups. Democrats want to focus on three objectives: increasing Americans’ wages and creating millions more good-paying jobs; lowering the cost of living for families through efforts like reducing the cost of prescription drugs; and building “a better economy” by providing better work training and educational opportunities.
Washington Republicans were quick to attack the party makeover.
"After losing to Republicans at the ballot box year-after-year, this is the best they have to offer?" asked Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. "Today’s recycled Democrat talking points do nothing to change the fact that the far-left has taken hold of the Party and continues to push a message of more resistance and obstruction.”
The RNC was hardly the first to mock the effort.
After an earlier and abbreviated version of the new slogan leaked on Thursday, Twitter users mocked the similarity to the tagline for Papa John's pizza, "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza."
And on Monday, before Democrats announced the changes, a Republican-aligned super PAC launched an ad campaign that targets Pelosi and argues her party remains mired in “the same, old liberal ideas.”
The Congressional Leadership Fund, which is behind the digital ad titled “Resistance,” focuses on Pelosi’s San Francisco congressional district and 12 other Democrat-leaning districts that President Trump won last fall.
All 435 House seats are up for reelection in 2018.
“The Democrats are the party of the resistance,” the narrator says in the 33-second ad that includes images of window-smashing and other protester-driven violence surrounding the inauguration.
“Radical extremists who destroy buildings, burn cars and divide America. Hollywood celebrities who are blinded by their hatred of the president. Nancy Pelosi and the Washington Democrats answer to them.”
Schumer acknowledged on Sunday that Democrats were partially to blame for Americans not knowing what the party stands for.
"When you lose an election with someone who has, say, 40 percent popularity, you look in the mirror and say what did we do wrong?” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And the number one thing that we did wrong is we didn't have -- we didn't tell people what we stood for."
However, Congressional Leadership Fund leaders say the message “continues to advance the same, old liberal ideas including single-payer health care, tax increases and military cuts,” despite all of the poll testing.
Democrats have already proposed a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan, a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave legislation.
Other congressional Democrats helping push the better deal message are Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.