Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Is Santorum's Surge For Real?

If the social conservative vote consolidates behind Rick Santorum, it may well propel him to a top-two finish in Iowa. That said, Santorum will not win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, which is still Mitt Romney's to lose.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Virginia Debacle Could Seriously Hurt GOP Presidential Nominee

Re-Posted From The Daily Caller

Only two candidates are slated to be on the 2012 Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot. The mainstream media is choosing to frame this predicament as evidence of which GOP candidates are running “serious” campaigns and which are not. But this media-driven narrative largely misses the mark.

The real loser in this ordeal is likely to be the eventual GOP presidential nominee.

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Is Ron Paul A 'Dangerous Man?'

Ron Paul's isolationist foreign policy is beyond dangerous given the instability around the world, particularly with regard to Iran, North Korea and China. While Dr. Paul is correct to challenge America's role as the world's policeman, the U.S. must be able to act appropriately when her security interests, economic interests and allies (Israel, South Korea, etc.) are at risk. Something tells me that the tyrannical leadership in Iran and North Korea would lean towards sanctioning Dr. Paul's presidential bid.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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In GOP Race, Iowa And New Hampshire Aren't What They Used To Be

The 2012 caucuses and primaries are finally upon us, and now it can be said: Iowa and New Hampshire may be a thing of the past.

What's fading is not their place in the celestial order as hosts of the first nominating contests, but rather their outsize role in personally sizing up Republican nominees.

An obscure Democratic governor named Jimmy Carterset the paradigm in 1975, when he essentially took up residence in Iowa and shook countless hands on his way to becoming the top named vote-getter in the 1976 caucuses. The Georgia governor's upset victory set him on a path to the presidency.

When Iowa Republicans caucus on Jan. 3, chances are the voters will know more about the candidates from nationally televised debates and interviews than from personal interaction. Ditto the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10.

"If the protester is Time's person of the year, then the debate is the primaries' theme of the year," says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Rumors Swirl Again About Jeb Bush And Presidential Race

Republican dissatisfaction over the field of GOP 2012 presidential candidates has again thrust former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush into the rumormill.

After Bush wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal about the importance of capitalism in America, the rumors swirled that Bush was going to make a last-minute bid to take on President Barack Obama in 2012.

Bush stopped the chatter quickly with an email to Politico stating simply: “not running.”

It’s at least the second time since October Bush has had to shoot down rumors that he is angling for a White House run.

Republican political consultant Ford O’Connell said the recent two-day non-story shows just how the current field has failed to ignite the enthusiasm among the core Republican voters.

“With the Republican base there is some worry that whoever they nominate can’t beat Barack Obama,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said Bush is the perfect candidate because he has elected experience, yet has been in private business, too.

Bush may insist he is out for 2012, but O’Connell said if Obama wins re-election, Bush will be at the top of the list as GOP contenders for 2016.

“He is the Republican front runner for 2016,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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Speaker Boehner Bows To Pressure On Tax Deal

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday caved in to a growing chorus of criticism from both within and outside his Republican party and agreed to a short-term deal to extend a payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans.

In a major reversal that appeared to end a standoff with Democrats, Boehner told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid he would set a vote in the House on a Senate-passed two-month extension of the payroll tax cut.

The Republicans' about-face contrasts with a year of dominance in Congress, in which their staunch opposition to higher taxes and spending has yielded a string of political successes. Their backpedalling this time handed a rare victory to President Barack Obama and Democrats.

"We have fought the good fight. Why not do the right thing for the American people even though it's not exactly what we want," Boehner told a news conference.

Republican leaders feared fierce backlash from voters in the 2012 elections and many Republican lawmakers were already getting an earful from constituents back home. Had the deal failed to materialize, they were looking at an effective $1,000-a-year tax increase on the average worker starting on January 1.

"If they had continued to dig in on this they risked losing the Senate in 2012 and handing President Obama the election without even having a fight," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist.

That said, Republicans will be back at the negotiating table in the first two months of the year - in the middle of the Republican primaries for 2012.

Read more from Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan at Reuters

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Ron Paul Can't Be Allowed To Win Iowa

Congressman Paul is extremely dangerous and his candidacy for president should not be taken lightly. He cannot be allowed to gain momentum in Iowa, either within the Republican field or in preparation for a third-party general election run. Our country’s future literally hangs in the balance. Helping Paul win a victory in Iowa will not only be a wasted vote, but it will likely challenge the party’s wisdom of permitting the Hawkeye State to hold the first nominating contest in the future.

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Analysis: Republicans Risk Backlash In 2012

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, also expressed frustration that despite his party's spending victories this year, they enter 2012 risking a voter backlash.

"The White House is winning the spin wars," O'Connell said. "The White House message that Republicans are the party of Wall Street and the rich is gaining more ground than any message the Republicans have.

"I think it is going to be more difficult for the Republican Party than the Democratic Party next year because the spin coming out of the White House is that the Republicans are unwilling to compromise. If the Republicans don't sharpen their message, they could suffer at the ballot box."

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Special Report: Tea Party Grassroots Army Readies For Battle

"Republicans are not sure yet they can beat Obama, so they're focusing on the Senate," said Republican strategist and CivicForumPAC chairman Ford O'Connell. Last year his PAC supported the successful campaigns of Florida Governor Marco Rubio and Pennsylvania Rep. Pat Toomey.

Now, in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, conservative donors are waiting to see if Tea Party groups can coordinate their efforts, O'Connell said.

"If they can unify behind viable candidates, more money will flow to those candidates," O'Connell said. "The big question is, can they get there?"

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A Ron Paul Third Party Bid Would Doom GOP Presidential Nominee

Texas Congressman Ron Paul is not going to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. But as a third party candidate, he would likely doom the eventual Republican nominee's chances of defeat President Obama in next year's general election. The Washington Post's Scott Clement weighs in:

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas) is gaining steam in his race for the GOP nomination, up to his highest level yet — 15 percent — in the new Washington Post-ABC News national poll. He trails President Obama by a mere five points among registered voters in a possible general election matchup. But should Paul fall short of winning his party’s nod and opt to run as a third-party candidate, the survey finds he could seriously shake up the 2012 political calculus, largely to Obama’s benefit.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ties Obama at 47 percent among registered voters in the poll, but fully 21 percent of all voters say they’d pick Paul as an independent candidate over either Romney or the president. Obama would win such a three-way match-up by 10 percentage points. The potential damage is less obvious for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who trails Obama by eight points in a two-way contest and 11 points with Paul in the mix.

As a third-party contender, Paul would draw heavily on Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP, and less so from Democratic ranks. As a result, Obama takes a smaller (albeit significant) hit in a three-way race than either of the two leading Republicans.

Would he actually stage a third-party run? Paul refused to rule out the possibility earlier this month on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying he’s “not even thinking about it.” Nevertheless, Paul refused to endorse John McCain in 2008 and held a rally coinciding with the Republican national convention that year. His heightened national support and still loyal base of supporters could make an independent run more tempting this time around.

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Analysis & Political Strategy