Tough Task For Democrats — President Trump Impeachment Hearings Start This Week

A top Massachusetts Democrat says he believes the formal impeachment hearings that get underway this week will convince Americans that President Trump has to go.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, who sits on the House Oversight Committee, told the Herald that the key for Democrats is to get the witnesses before the public, so everyone can hear the testimony he and other congressmen have been listening to behind closed doors over the past couple of weeks.

The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings, which begin on Wednesday, will center around Trump’s summer phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Big TV networks — NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS — all plan to pull normal programming in favor of coverage of the impeachment hearings.

Trump is accused of pushing the Ukrainian president to investigate former vice president and 2020 presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Days before that reported phone call, Trump froze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine. The president has insisted he did nothing wrong and denied that any request for help was tied to the aid freeze.

But Democrats face a difficult task convincing a lukewarm public ahead of the 2020 elections that Trump should be removed from office, political operatives tell the Herald.

But Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said this will ultimately backfire on Democrats in 2020.

“They’re spending all their time on this and not on the issues that most Americans care about,” he said. “This could re-elect Trump and also put the House in play.”

Read more from Rick Sobey and Sean Philip Cotter at the Boston Herald

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5 Things To Watch For As Wild Ride Of U.S. Presidential Campaign Really Gets Going

Anyone who has ever ridden a roller-coaster knows the feeling.

The unsettling mix of anticipation and dread that comes after the harness is locked in place and the ride starts slowly climbing toward the sky.

You're waiting for the slow climb to switch to a terrifying descent, filled with twists and turns and flips that come at you so quickly, all you can do is scream.

In a strange way, that's pretty much where we are in U.S. politics right now.

One year out from the vote that will determine whether Donald Trump earns a second term in the White House, the campaign is about to pick up speed.

The twists and turns and noise of the 2020 campaign could feel overwhelming.

With that in mind, here are five things Canadians should pay attention to over the next 12 months as they try to make sense of what's really happening in the election south of the border.

1. Wavering senators

As the partisan theatre of the impeachment inquiry against Trump dominates the headlines over the next three months or so, pay particular attention to any Republican senators who stop defending the president, or even start speaking out against him.

The Democrats seem likely to impeach the president in the House of Representatives, but to actually remove him from office, they would need 20 Republican senators to turn against Trump in a Senate trial.

Expect many Republicans to frame this behaviour as bad — but not bad enough to warrant removing the president from office.

If that message sticks, and there are no new revelations about Trump's behaviour, veteran Republican campaign strategist Ford O'Connell predicts the impeachment process won't have a major impact on the presidential race.

"Chances are this is something that will probably be over by mid-January. And it will be another blip."

Read more from Lyndsay Buncombe at CBC News

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Play-Nice Approach Of 2020 Democrats Threatens To Hand Trump A Reelection Advantage

Democrats seeking their party's 2020 nomination have largely avoided bludgeoning each other with lines of attack that President Trump has already signaled he's ready to weaponize.

That's likely to change soon.

Whether overseas business activities of Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden or Elizabeth Warren's self-proclaimed Native American heritage, vulnerabilities of top-tier 2020 Democrats are likely to become targets, with the first primary contests less than 100 days away. Rivals of former Vice President Biden, 76, and Massachusetts Sen. Warren, 70, will start to draw sharper personal contrasts rather than sticking solely to policy.

The eventual nominee will face an onslaught of attacks from Republicans and President Trump in the general election. Trump has already started to attack Hunter Biden's involvement with Ukrainian energy company Burisma while he was leading U.S. foreign policy toward the country. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, suffered a heart attack, prompting arguments that he is too old to serve in office. Trump's favorite nickname for Warren is "Pocahontas," a reference to her claim of Native American ancestry.

"If Warren thinks her Native American problem has been put to bed, she's got another thing coming,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “It is without a doubt going to resurface."

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A Year Before The 2020 Election, Battleground State Polls Signal Tight Race Ahead

With 365 days until the 2020 presidential election, Republicans and Democrats both have good reason to believe they have a political advantage, but several new polls paint a picture of a race that is closer than either party is likely comfortable with, as President Donald Trump and top Democratic contenders fall within the margin of error of each other in key states.

“This is going to be a barnburner, knockdown, ugly, tight race and frankly neither side should be confident,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

President Trump enters his reelection fight with historical headwinds favoring an incumbent and the strongest job market in decades. Although fears of a recession persist, Trump can boast of solid economic growth, steadily improving wages, and a record-smashing stock market.

However, he is also likely to be the first president to ever face reelection after being impeached, his approval rating has rarely climbed out of the low 40s, and most voters do not trust him. The economy is the only issue on which a majority of voters consistently signal approval for his policies, giving Democrats a clear opening if they can figure out how to take it.

Although national polls mostly offer good news for Democrats, they may be less instructive than battleground state surveys that provide a more muddled assessment. A New York Times/Sienna College poll of registered voters in six states Trump won by slim margins in 2016 suggests only Biden is currently ahead of Trump in most of them, and even he is still within the margin of error.

“The state-level polls give us a better indication,” O’Connell said. “Everyone seems to forget it’s all about the Electoral College regardless of what the national polls say.”

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at ABC 6

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Trump Campaign's Strategy To Attack Democrat Warren: Define Her As Dishonest

President Donald Trump’s campaign team has been developing a plan to portray White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren as dishonest and untrustworthy - based in part on her past claim of Native American ancestry - in a sign of recognition that she may become the Democratic nominee to face him in 2020.

For months, Trump’s campaign had focused its fire on Joe Biden, the early front-runner in the battle for the Democratic U.S. presidential nomination.

But Warren’s surge to the top of the Democratic pack in recent opinion polls and her strong fundraising - $9 million more than Biden in the third quarter alone - has not gone unnoticed, two people inside the Republican president’s re-election team told Reuters.

They said the campaign is evaluating the vulnerabilities of all the Democratic candidates and it was still too early to single out any of them as the likely nominee. But, one of the officials said, “Her rise is undeniable.”

The nascent game plan on how Trump would attack the liberal U.S. senator from Massachusetts differs from the manner in which his team had gone after Biden, seeking to portray the former vice president as corrupt based on allegations of wrongdoing - made without substantiation - arising from his son’s past role with a Ukrainian energy company.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who worked on Republican John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said he believes the Native American ancestry issue is not behind her.

“If you can undermine her credibility,” O’Connell said, “you can make the case that the policies she is promoting are not true either.”

Read more from Tim Reid at Reuters

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Dems Not All On Board With Warren’s Medicare-for-All Plan

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren could be turning off swing voters in New Hampshire and the Midwest with her Medicare-for-All plan — which “opened up a can of worms” and leaves plenty of questions, pundits tell the Herald.

Warren, who took heat over the weekend from Democratic rivals, has also provided plenty of new talking points for President Trump.

“If fellow Democrats are picking her plan apart, imagine what the man in the White House is going to do and what conservatives are going to do,” said veteran pollster John Zogby.

Warren on Friday said her $52 trillion plan over 10 years wouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class, and it would require $20.5 trillion in new revenue. That revenue would come from employers paying Medicare instead of private insurance, and the rest from “targeted defense spending cuts, new taxes on financial firms, giant corporations, and the richest 1% of Americans.”

Many voters remain skeptical that this monster plan wouldn’t result in higher taxes for middle-class families.

Warren’s plan is a “complete fairy tale,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

“There is no way it’s not going to lead to taxes on the middle class,” he added.

Read more from Rick Sobey at the Boston Herald

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Facebook CEO vs. Facebook Movie Screenwriter

CivicForumPAC chairman Ford O'Connell discusses screenwriter Aaron Sorkin criticizing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over political ads.

Watch the video at Fox Business

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Trump, GOP Develop Impeachment Strategy, Hit 'Desperate' Democrats For Advancing Probe

President Trump and his allies will fight impeachment in the halls of Congress and over the airwaves by attacking Democrats’ partisan motives, making their case particularly for white voters in battleground states that the president is a victim of “unhinged” liberal hatred, sources close to the president said.

The president huddled with more than a dozen House Republican lawmakers at the White House on Thursday, hours after House Democrats approved a measure to move forward with an impeachment investigation centered on Mr. Trump’s overtures to Ukraine’s leader to investigate 2020 Democratic presidential front-runner Joseph R. Biden.

“The Democrats are desperate,” Mr. Trump told a British interviewer after the vote. “They’re going to try and win the election this way, because they can’t win it the fair way.”

While Republicans can’t stop the impeachment probe, they can escalate their barrage of criticism that the investigation is illegitimate and fundamentally unfair, supporters of the president say. Regardless of a vote to impeach the president, the strategy — coming soon to TV — will help him in a handful of states that will decide the 2020 election, they say.

“Essentially it’s about a PR campaign that is meant for about 10 percent of the persuadable voters in a total of about six states — Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, a little bit of Minnesota, North Carolina, Arizona,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “We’re really talking about a giant PR battle that’s going to carry over to the ballot box, more so than the actual trial itself.”

By a 52% to 44% margin, registered voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin said they oppose impeaching and removing Mr. Trump from office.

Said Mr. O’Connell, “The fact that he’s an incumbent gives him advantages. The party apparatus is going to walk in lock step with him. And he’s got a lot of money. If he comes out on top, it could be his best reelection ad.”

Mr. O’Connell said there was another piece of “great news” hidden in the House party-line vote: even the dozen or so “Never Trump” Republican lawmakers in the House voted with the president.

“The rules that were set up by Pelosi and Schiff were so bad, you even got the ‘Never Trump‘ Republicans to agree with Trump,” he said. “The Republicans are going to drive home over and over that the Democrats are violating historic precedent, they are violating the president’s due process, and that the Democrats have pre-planned this from day one.”

Read more from Dave Boyer at The Washington Times

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Biden Getting ‘Weaker And Weaker’ By The Day: GOP Strategist

Republican strategist and Civic Forum PAC chairman Ford O'Connell analyzes former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Watch the video at Fox Business

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Trump Attacks On Vindman Trigger Backlash

President Trump's aggressive attacks on a White House official who testified about his concerns over Trump's communications with Ukraine in the impeachment inquiry set off a furious backlash on Tuesday, with former Vice President Joe Biden calling the president's remarks “despicable.”

Trump described Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an active-duty member of the military who attended his deposition in uniform, as a “Never Trumper,” while some allies questioned the Purple Heart recipient’s patriotism given the fact that he emigrated from Ukraine as a child.

Vindman on Tuesday provided damaging testimony about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell also said Trump is “right to challenge the veracity of witnesses coming before Congress,” noting that Vindman was presenting his opinion of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky and that the partial transcript released by the White House did not show an explicit quid pro quo on the phone call.

Read more from Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels at The Hill

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