Romney Is More Electable, But Needs To Clean Up Campaign

For now, it appears Romney would fare slightly better than Santorum in a general election match-up with President Obama. But as political prognosticator Nate Silver of The New York Times says, Romney's current electability edge over Santorum "is not all that great."

The true answer of which candidate is more electable hinges on two items. How does each candidate go about winning the GOP nomination—if, in fact, one of them does win it? And where does the economy stand on Election Day?

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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Republican Debate: Why Rick Santorum Faces More Pressure Than Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney faces enormous pressure Wednesday night in the only Republican debate before next Tuesday’s primaries in Michigan and Arizona – and the 10 on Super Tuesday a week later.

It’s Mr. Romney’s biggest chance to get his campaign back on track since Rick Santorum shot to the top of national polls after his stunning sweep of Missouri,Minnesota, and Colorado on Feb. 7. If Romney loses in Michigan (Feb. 28) and then Ohio (March 6) – two big heartland contests, including his native state – the political universe will be turned on its head.

But the stakes are just as high for Santorum – and arguably higher. Even with key losses, Romney will remain the best organized candidate in the race, with the biggest war chest and his name on the ballot in all remaining contests.  Santorum is still the underdog in all those spheres, and he needs to win Michigan to show that he can succeed in a big, hotly contested race.  

And to win Michigan, where the polls show Romney rising back into a dead heat, Santorum has to reassure voters.

“Santorum’s job tonight is to quell fears about his general-election electability,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Taking on social issues to differentiate himself from [Newt] Gingrich and Romney is a good strategy, but it’s high risk. He’s been over-talking.”

Santorum’s first task, Mr. O’Connell says, is to take his strong views on social issues – a plus with the so-called “values voters” in the Republican base – and turn them into a discussion on limited government and strong families, not about telling individuals what to do. In recent days Santorum has been all over birth control, women’s role in society, and same-sex marriage.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Romney's Trump Card In Mich. A Risky Gamble

Enlisting Donald Trump — best known for the catchphrase “You’re fired!” — in Michigan is a risky move in a state ravaged with 9 percent unemployment, but the reality TV star’s straight talk could be just what Mitt Romney needs to sideline the surging Rick Santorum, pundits told the Herald.

Trump has been booked for radio interviews in the Wolverine State every day this week to promote Romney as his campaign struggles to close a gap with Santorum a week before the must-win primary.

Whether Romney’s Trump card will be a bold success or a colossal failure is as unpredictable as a “Celebrity Apprentice” boardroom outcome, political observers said.

“Trump does one thing that Romney does not — exude passion and charisma,” said unaligned Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who worked on the 2008 John McCain/Sarah Palin campaign. “Romney needs Trump right now because he needs someone to throw the whole kitchen sink at Santorum.”

The arrangement seems to at least work out well for one party — Trump.

“With The Donald, you’re always playing with fire,” O’Connell said. “Trump wants to keep one political foot in the door.”

Read more from Chris Cassidy at the Boston Herald

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Ford O'Connell Discusses Santorum's Social Issues Strategy & Babeu Controversy At CNN

Ford O'Connell and Democratic Strategist Ed Espinoza join CNN's Randi Kaye on "Fair Game" to discuss Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum's recent focus on social issues, and the latest on Arizona GOP congressional candidate Paul Babeu's acknowledgement of being gay amid accusations of misconduct.

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PPP: Santorum's Lead Over Romney Shrinks To Four In Michigan

Mitt Romney is making up ground on Rick Santorum in the Wolverine State thanks to Gingrich's presence in the race, according to the latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey (released 2/19/12). Key PPP statistic: 36% of voters say they could change their minds in the next week. 69% of Romney's supporters are strongly committed to him, compared to only 63% of Santorum's backers.

The Republican race for President in Michigan has tightened considerably over the last week, with what was a 15 point lead for Rick Santorum down to 4. [Santorum] leads with 37% to 33% for Mitt Romney, 15% for Ron Paul, and 10% for Newt Gingrich.

The tightening over the last week is much more a function of Romney gaining than Santorum falling.

What we're seeing in Michigan is a very different story from Florida where Romney surged by effectively destroying his opponent's image- here Romney's gains have more to do with building himself up.

Groups Santorum has double digit leads with include Protestants (up 47-30), union members (up 43-23), Evangelicals (up 51-24), Tea Partiers (up 55-20), 'very conservative' voters (up 54-23), and men (up 40-28).

Romney is leading the field with women (38-34), seniors (42-34), moderates (35-24), 'somewhat conservative' voters (40-34), and Catholics (43-31).

Newt Gingrich's continued presence in the race is helping Romney a lot. 
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Ford O'Connell Discusses Romney's Latest Ads Targeting Santorum's Record At Fox News

Ford O'Connell and Democratic Strategist Alexis McGill Johnson join Fox News' Gregg Jarrett and Heather Childress on America's News HQ to discuss Mitt Romney's latest super PAC ads targeting Rick Santorum's record on fiscal issues and GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum's 2012 general election chances.

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After Review, Romney Still Wins Maine

Former Massachusetts Govenor Mitt Romney can breath a sigh of relief for now - Maine is still in the win column. Politico's Tim Mak has more:

Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster has admitted that the state party made numerous clerical errors in counting the state’s caucus results — even omitting some votes because emails reporting tallies “went to spam” in an email account.

However, Webster insisted that the errors did not change the outcome.

On Saturday, he had declared former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney the winner of Maine’s Presidential Preference Poll by fewer than 200 votes, even though not all municipalities had reported results.

The vote figures may be altered slightly, he said, but the results — a Romney win, followed by a second-place finish by Paul — would not change.

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Michigan Is A Must-Win ... For Santorum

According to conventional wisdom, it is former Gov. Mitt Romney who can't afford anything but a clear victory in the Michigan primary on February 28.

If the polls are any indication, Michigan is certainly going to be an uphill battle for Romney. If he loses, it will undoubtedly be a major setback in his quest to be his party's standard-bearer. But the truth is, Michigan is not "Gettysburg" for Romney—he can survive a setback there. But a loss in Michigan very well could be the end for Santorum.

To this point, Santorum's campaign has accumulated the second-most delegates despite the fact it runs on a shoestring budget, doesn't employ a pollster, and doesn't even have an official campaign headquarters.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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Republican Donor Expected To Shell Out $10 Million To Gingrich super PAC

In a move that could again dramatically shake up the Republican primary race, billionaire and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson is expected to donate an additional $10 million to the super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, Winning Our Future, a source with knowledge of the donation told CNN.

That contribution is expected soon, before the end of the month, the source said. The timing is important because Gingirch, whose campaign has been lagging, is hoping to do well in several of the upcoming Super Tuesday states that vote on March 6 to boost his effort. His allies will need that money to be in a position to help. Because ten states go to the polls on that one day, money is key in order to do well.

Adelson, a Nevada casino mogul, and his extended family have already given $11 million to that PAC.

"Adelson is certainly giving Gingrich one more chance. But given Gingrich's poll numbers, Adelson's cash infusion is more about knocking Santorum from the top of the polls than it is about boosting Gingrich's chances. While Adelson supports Gingrich, he is concerned that Santorum could win the nomination over Romney," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who is not backing any candidate in the primary.

O'Connell worked for Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Read more from Kevin Bohn at CNN

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Notes From The Campaign Trail: February 16

There’s talk that it’s Rick Santorum who is currently under the gun, not Mitt Romney.  He can write a check to himself, if need be, while Santorum must win Michigan and Ohio to make the case that Romney has a mid-West problem which warrants additional support for Santorum as a preferred alternative.

Erick Erickson reported on Twitter that Romney will not participate in the CNN debate in Georgia before Super Tuesday.

The big money players behind the Super PACs of all the candidates have agreed to come together to fund a general election PAC, regardless of the nominee.

The general election could come down to the GOP winning Ohio, Virginia and Florida.

Polling suggests Ohio Senator Portman wouldn’t generate enough of a boost to warrant selection as Veep. While Rubio in Florida and McDonnell in Virginia would benefit the nominee, especially if it’s Romney,  there’s thought that McDonnell would be the better choice.  His addition might also help win a Senate seat by helping to support George Allen simply by being on the ticket.

Yet, on the conservative front, some suggest McDonnell isn’t quite the conservative he’s often made out to be, which could prove to be a problem with the base, nationally.

One of the sources consulted for the above is friend and analyst Ford O’Connell, who worked on the 2008 McCain campaign.

Read more from Dan Riehl at BigGovernment

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