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House freshmen missing from Tampa speaker list

TAMPA, Fla. — Only two House freshmen snagged coveted prime-time speaking slots at the Republican National Convention.

Reps. Tim Griffin (Ark.) and Sean Duffy (Wis.) will each give brief remarks on Tuesday evening. Two other freshman lawmakers will speak at non-peak times earlier in the day.

The dearth of prime speaking time is partly due, simply, to the 89-member class's low name recognition. Many of those who are better known, like Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), earned national attention for their controversial past statements.

But another factor at play involves presumptive nominee Mitt Romney and House Republican candidates often working from different playbooks, as a number of the freshmen are firebrand conservatives from either very red districts or rookies facing tough reelection campaigns in districts that lean Democratic. 

A Romney strategist alluded to the difference in messaging focus when asked why more members of the influential freshmen class aren't speaking at the convention.

"I think it's about Mitt Romney and who can best talk about the Mitt Romney story and talk about his strong points, so that's what we're going to do," he said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday downplayed the importance of the speaking schedule.

“I love our 89 freshmen — if it weren't for the 89 getting elected I wouldn't be the Speaker, all right? But the RNC and others make decisions about who is going to speak,” Boehner said when asked whether the freshman class should be better represented at the convention. “I remember speaking at the 1992 convention when I was a freshman — part of the Gang of Seven — and, in fact, it was at 2 o'clock in the afternoon and nobody was watching. So I don't think it's a big deal."

Optics could be another reason. Romney’s convention is heavy on minority and female speakers, while the GOP freshman class is mostly white and male — only 18 percent are either minorities or female.

One of the two House freshmen speaking earlier in the day is Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Texas), one of the eight minority members of the class. Meanwhile, Mia Love, a female, African-American Mormon running for Congress in Utah, has a prime-time speaking slot. Three other House candidates will address the gathering.

Some powerful House Republicans, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), did not get speaking slots. On the other hand, Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a favorite of House conservatives, helped elevated their agenda and pleased a number of them, assuaging any concerns that they’d feel left out. 

One GOP strategist who asked for anonymity to speak candidly said that because Romney and the National Republican Congressional Committee were focused on different parts of the country and different goals, they, by necessity, didn't work that closely together.

"The conversations we have with the Romney victory campaign and with the NRCC are wholly different," he said. "There's not animosity between them, but House Republicans' playbooks include picking up voters and conveying messages that may not be pro-Romney. It may strategically run counter to what the Romney campaign wants to do."

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