Republicans On Campaign Trail Shun Obamacare Replacement

The Republican Obamacare replacement bill is proving to be absolute poison on the campaign trail, where party candidates range from noncommittal to downright hostile.

“I am against it,” said Corey Stewart, who is battling for the Republican nomination in the Virginia governor’s race. “It doesn’t go far enough. Look, a bunch of politicians in Washington are never going to be able to create an efficient one-size-fits-all health care system.”

The plan also has been met with disdain in Georgia, where 11 Republicans are running for the seat left vacant by President Trump’s health and human services secretary. Several of the candidates — including Amy Kremer and Bob Gray — have panned the plan as “Obamacare-lite” and said conservatives instead should deliver on the full repeal they promised on the campaign trail.

For Republican leaders already having a tough time selling their bill in Washington, the last thing they need is a steady dose of negative reaction from candidates running in elections back home.

“The Republicans on the Hill are trying to put out the fire, and these guys are throwing accelerant on the fire,” said Ford O’Connell, a party strategist.

“You are shooting yourself and the long-term prospects for President Trump in the foot when you do this,” he said, arguing that Republicans need to show they can govern. “These guys have to grow a backbone, hold the line and see the big picture because the more successful Trump is, the more successful they will be.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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Wiretapping Claim Could Hurt GOP In ’18

President Trump faces a deadline today to produce evidence for lawmakers investigating his Twitter claim that former President Barack Obama illegally wiretapped his Trump Tower offices before the election.

But it’s congressional Republicans, including those who avidly support Trump and his agenda, who could face their own political heat in the 2018 elections based on how they handle the claims, which have been dismissed by Obama and intelligence officials.

House Intelligence Committee chairman and former Trump campaign surrogate Rep. Devin Nunes, (R-Calif.) and ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) gave the Trump administration until today to provide proof of the president’s claim, which is part the committee’s probe of election tampering by Russian officials.

Other Republicans are also calling for quick action from Trump, who has declined to produce evidence of the claim he made last week, instead calling on Congress to investigate.

But the backlash is less likely to harm the president, even if his claim that Obama committed a crime proves false, experts said.

“On the other hand, if Trump is proven right, it will be the biggest scandal since Watergate — and he will be the victor,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at The Boston Herald

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Keep It Simple And You’ll Win, Mr. President: Advice From A Strategist

The political landscape grows ever more murky with questionable media coverage and partisan trickery meant to upstage President Trump’s bona fide accomplishments. How can he counter such tactics and maintain the positive momentum he gained following a well-received speech before Congress? Ford O’Connell, an adjunct professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, has a suggestion.

“It is indisputable; the Democrats want your head, Mr. President. They do not care if you resign or are impeached, and a good portion of the media agrees. And they will use all means necessary to upend your presidency at every turn. So I understand the need to counterpunch and engage in the day-to-day battles to reclaim the media narrative, but you cannot take your eyes off the ball and lose sight of the bigger picture,” says Mr. O'Connell, also a former strategist for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“You were not elected to be the president of the Republican Party or to be a doctrinaire conservative. You were elected to get things done and to put Americans back to work. But as former President Obama discovered, you can only accomplish so much through executive orders. If you are able to get a couple of your big-ticket items through Congress — Obamacare overhaul, tax reform, infrastructure, securing America’s borders — you will be re-elected in 2020. It’s not that easy, but it is that simple,” Mr. O’Connell advises.

Read more from Jennifer Harper at The Washington Times

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Russia Conspiracy Allegations To Continue Until Trump Plugs Intel Leaks

Russian conspiracy allegations will continue to dog the White House until President Trump gets a handle on the administration’s opponents inside the U.S. intelligence community who are driving the story, warned Republican strategists in Washington.

President Trump has railed against the leaks apparently emanating from the National Security Agency, CIA or FBI. But so far, he has failed to take adequate steps to root out the faction within the intelligence apparatus that is undermining his presidency, whether they are holdovers from the Obama administration or elements intent on thwarting Mr. Trump to preserve their own power.

The targeted leaks to the news media about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials — including information from communications intercepted by intelligence agencies — resulted in the ouster of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as the president’s national security adviser and created a swirl of controversy last week around Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The intelligence leaks have kept the story alive, fueled attacks by Democrats and fractured the Republican majority on Capitol Hill, although no evidence has emerged of actual collusion with Russians to affect the election.

Deepening the crisis for the White House, many Republican lawmakers joined Democrats in calling for Mr. Sessions to recuse himself, although they refrained from joining the opposition party’s calls for the attorney general to resign.

“Republican members of Congress have got to stop being afraid of their own shadow and falling on their sword at the first inference of bad news,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “They need to grow a backbone and see the bigger picture here and hold the line. They need to understand what Democrats want here. They want Trump out — impeached or resigned, they don’t care which.”

Mr. Trump also should demand his critics produce evidence to back up allegations of a Russian conspiracy within the administration, said Mr. McKenna.

Read more from S.A. Miller at The Washington Times

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Why Trump Won't Fire Sessions

Congressional Democrats will keep demanding Attorney General Jeff Sessions' scalp, but President Trump is unlikely to give it to them anytime soon.

Sessions is under fire for meeting twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States without disclosing it to the Senate during his confirmation hearings. He announced Thursday that he would recuse himself from all investigations related to the 2016 presidential campaign.

Democrats were hardly mollified. "Attorney General Sessions is right to recuse himself, but the fact is he should have done so the moment he was sworn in," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement. "The DOJ regulations that led him to recuse himself existed three weeks ago when I first asked him to do so and were just as dispositive then as they are now."

Some Republican strategists say if anything, the GOP is being too hard on Sessions.

"Republicans have got to stop being afraid of their own shadows and falling on their swords prematurely," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell. "There's no need to hit the fire alarm too early. They're kneecapping themselves."

"This is a straight communications battle," O'Connell said. "When Van Jones and Chris Wallace are raving about Trump's speech, there's no need to hand the news cycle back to the Democrats."

Read more from W. James Antle at The Washington Examiner

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Trump’s Appeal To Dismantle Obamacare Fails To Unite GOP Factions

President Trump’s prime-time appeal to scrap Obamacare energized Republicans but did little to bridge the divide between GOP factions jockeying for position in the push to repeal and replace the law before moving on to tax reform and other fights.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan seized momentum, though, saying Mr. Trump’s pitch to include tax credits in any Obamacare replacement signaled the White House and Congress are reading from the same playbook, as conservatives threaten to block an emerging plan crafted by leaders and key committee chairmen.

An emerging House GOP proposal would dole out refundable, age-based tax credits to people who purchase insurance on their own, while paying for it by taxing a portion of particularly generous employer-sponsored plans.

Conservatives have cast the plan as a new entitlement, or “Obamacare lite,” and an obstacle to the repeal effort that Mr. Trump and GOP lawmakers cheered on late Tuesday.

“While Trump sings to a conservative hymn book, he’s not a consistent conservative,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said. “He was not elected to be a conservative. He was elected to get things done.”

Read more from Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times

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Trump’s Ambitious Agenda Comes With No Plan To Carry It Out

President Trump brought an ambitious agenda to Congress on Tuesday night, but it came without a blueprint and with no sign yet of concrete legislation to carry it out.

Over a month into the new administration, with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House, the big items on the Republican agenda, listed by order of priority, are piling up without action: Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, overhaul the tax code, and invest $1 trillion to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, a plan whose only specific so far is the price tag.

As the weeks tick by, the lack of progress is creating a logjam in Congress that will intensify as deadlines loom on must-pass items such as the debt ceiling and a spending bill to keep the government open. Trump added another item Tuesday by floating the prospect of immigration reform, and he insisted that Congress build a wall on the border with Mexico.

The president is “certainly thinking big, given the amount of stuff he’s proposed,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “It might require two terms for him to get a good deal of it done.” Little will happen, O’Connell added, “until Trump is able to get congressional Republicans marching in the same direction.”

O’Connell said Republicans have another problem in that they must replace Obamacare before they can decide on a tax overhaul. That’s because the health care law relies on taxes to pay for expanded coverage. 

Read more from Carolyn Lockheed at The San Francisco Chronicle

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The Presidential Trump Emerges, At Least For A Night

On the morning of his debut speech to Congress, Donald Trump awarded himself high marks as president – except on communication.

"In terms of messaging, I would give myself a C or a C+," President Trump told Fox News.

Trump may well revise the grade, after delivering the most polished, optimistic address of his short political career on Tuesday night.

After almost six weeks in office, Trump supporters hope he is hitting his stride and has learned from his early stumbles. The next phase of Trump’s crash course in public service now moves to Congress, where he will embark on the delicate task of trying to pass a budget, and legislation on health care, tax reform, and immigration.

Whether this proves to be the long-awaited pivot toward a more presidential Trump, or a rare night of polished oratory remains to be seen. And while even Democratic lawmakers and commentators agreed that the president showed a new face Tuesday, some offered a caveat: A more effective communicator of an unacceptable agenda makes Trump more dangerous.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell points to a particular moment of “optimism and compassion” in Tuesday’s speech: “Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved. And every hurting family can find healing and hope.”

"Trump’s overall goal of the address was to instill in Congress the 'will to govern,' to compromise where possible in an effort to get things done on behalf of the American people," writes Mr. O'Connell in an email. "It's not an easy task in a broken, bipartisan town like Washington, D.C. But on this night, he succeeded."

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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March Is The Biggest Month For GOP In A Decade

March is shaping up to be the most important month for the Republican Party in more than a decade 

For the first time since 2006, the GOP controls the White House and Congress.

That power gives Republicans who thwarted much of President Obama’s second term the opportunity to fundamentally change federal policy and win legislative victories desired since the height of the Tea Party movement — if they can unify behind a common agenda.

The wish list begins with passing a budget, reforming the tax code and repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

All three issues are divisive, making the next six weeks key.

By the end of that intense run, it will be clear that the Trump agenda is moving along swiftly — or stuck in its tracks.

“The month of March is not a ‘do-or-die' moment, but it is the next closest thing,” says GOP strategist Ford O'Connell. “For the last eight years, Republicans operated as the chest-thumping opposition party, and now is their best chance to show the American people they can in fact govern on some very critical issues."

 “If Republicans are successful, they will gain greater support among the electorate,” said O'Connell, the GOP strategist. But if they show themselves to be to be the 'gang that can't shoot straight', Democrats will hang it around their neck like an albatross and gleefully obstruct all the way to the 2018 ballot box.”

Read more from Bob Cusack and Ian Swanson at The Hill

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Oscars Shots Are Pure Gold For Donald Trump

Before the best picture gaffe stole the show last night, Hollywood took some shots at President Trump during the Academy Awards, a chorus political strategists say plays right into the president’s hands and solidifies his status as the antithesis of liberal elites.

Host Jimmy Kimmel set into Trump right away, citing a “divided country” in his opening monologue and leading a standing ovation for legendary actress Meryl Streep, who made headlines after attacking Trump in her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes last month.

Kimmel mockingly referred to Streep as “overrated,” something Trump called Streep in a dismissive tweet after the Golden Globes, before honing in on race relations under Trump.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said the Americans who put Trump in the White House would likely be put off by quips at the commander in chief.

“Any time Hollywood liberals politically grandstand it helps the president,” O’Connell said. “Ordinary Americans have never been to Tinseltown, and their concerns revolve around making rent and paying college loans, not virtue signaling for the sake of standing on a red carpet.”

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at the Boston Herald

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