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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PPP: Mitt Romney Leads President Obama

Two weeks out from the 2012 Iowa caucuses, this is a positive sign for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as he works to bolster his electability argument among GOP primary voters. Unfortunately if a reputable third party candidate enters the general election battle for president, the eventual Republican nominee could find himself or herself at a real disadvantage. Public Policy Polling (PPP) has more:

For the first time in PPP's monthly national polling since July 2010 Mitt Romney's taken a lead, albeit a small one, over Barack Obama.  He's up 47-45. 

Romney has two main things going for him. He leads the President 45-36 with independents. And he's also benefiting from a much more unified party with 88% of Republicans committed to voting for him while only 83% of Democrats say they'll vote for Obama.

Our national survey confirms the wide electability gap between Romney and the rest of the Republican candidate field. Obama leads both Newt Gingrich (49-44) and Ron Paul (46-41) by 5 points, Michele Bachmann (50-41) by 9, and Rick Perry (50-40) by 10.  It continues to look like if GOP voters really want to defeat Obama they pretty much have to nominate Romney.

One thing that could confound Romney's prospects is if a strong third party candidate entered the race. 

The strongest potential independent candidate we tested is Donald Trump who gets 19% in a three way contest with Obama at 45% and Romney at 31%.

The only other potential independent we tested who registers in double digits is Jon Huntsman at 11%. Obama gets 43% and Romney 37% in that three way contest. 

It's clear there's a lot more desire for a third party candidate from conservative voters than Obama supporters.

The big picture on our national poll remains the same: Obama/Romney is a toss up, Obama has an advantage on the rest of the Republican field, and a third party candidate could pave the way for Obama's reelection.


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PoliFact Calls Out Dems For 2011 Political Lie Of Year

Skewering the truth is nothing new in politics. But for most of 2011, Congressional Democrats, the Obama administration and their surrogates have been completely disingenuous with regard to Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reform plan. Bill Adair at PoliFact has more:

PolitiFact editors chose the Democratic line that Republicans voted "to end Medicare" as the 2011 Lie of the Year.

We define the Lie of the Year as the most significant falsehood, the one that had the most impact on the political discourse.

We discussed each of the other finalists and concluded that while clearly false, they failed to be as significant as the Medicare claim, which ignored the fact that people 55 and older would remain on traditional Medicare and that even with the privatized system under Ryan's bill, younger people would still receive a guarantee of care.

And more than any of our other finalists, the Medicare claim had staying power. The Democrats launched it just four days after the House vote in April and then repeated it many times all year. It was the latest chapter in a long-running "Mediscare" strategy to frighten senior citizens that their benefits are in jeopardy if they support Republicans.

As we were concluding our reporting for our Lie of the Year story last week, Ryan announced that he was altering his plan and would retain an option for people to stay in traditional Medicare if they want.

His announcement of a bipartisan effort with Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., changes the dynamic in the polarized debate and could increase the likelihood that Congress adopts his approach.

Matt Miller, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, wrote that Ryan "has plausibly inoculated his party against a full-frontal Mediscare campaign. Or at least he gives Republicans a credible rebuttal to neutralize it."

But Ryan's latest tactic doesn't affect our decision on Lie of the Year. The statements made about his original plan were clearly inaccurate, they were repeated by many Democrats and they perpetuated a 60-year tactic in using false claims to scare seniors.

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Under Fire, Gingrich Targets Judges

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich threatened on Sunday to have U.S. judges arrested if they disagreed with his policies as president, ratcheting up his attacks on the judiciary as he tries to halt a slide in his campaign.

"I got into this originally because of two things: the steady encroachment of secularism through the courts to redefine America as a non-religious country and the encroachment of the courts on the president's commander-in-chief powers, which is enormously dangerous," Gingrich said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

Gingrich has said that, as president, he would ignore Supreme Court decisions that conflicted with his powers as commander in chief. He said on "Face the Nation" he would subpoena a judge if the jurist disagreed with him, and send police "if you had to or you'd instruct the Justice Department to send a U.S. Marshall" if necessary to bring the judge in.

The tough line against judges may please conservatives who rail against an "activist" judiciary over issues such as allowing gay marriage rights or limiting prayer in schools. But it could also work against Gingrich since voters already are angry over constant battling in Washington between the White House and Congress.

"That's not going to sit well in a seven-second soundbite," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "When people hear that, that becomes divisive. And what are people most concerned about now? Divisiveness in Washington."

Gingrich reached the top of the Republican field last month as the favored conservative alternative to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. But his front-runner status has prompted withering attacks from rivals that he is an unreliable conservative and influence peddler, particularly over fat fees he earned from Freddie Mac, a mortgage giant tied to the economic recession.

Read more from Patricia Zengerle at Reuters

 

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Romney Back In Front-Runner Mode In Republican Race

Republican U.S. presidential contender Mitt Romney, once the leader and presumed nominee, is back in front-runner mode.

Less than three weeks before Iowa kicks off the state-by-state Republican battle to find a challenger to President Barack Obama, polls show support for main rival Newt Gingrich may already be softening.

Romney also won an important endorsement on Friday from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

With other contenders scrambling to slice up Gingrich, Romney was a model of decorum at the final Republican debate on Thursday before Iowa kicks off the nominating race on January 3.

Romney let rivals Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann lead the way in attacking Gingrich and stayed well above the fray. He even exchanged compliments at times with Gingrich, the former House of Representatives speaker who has rolled past him in polls in the last month.

"His whole goal now is to get back to being the 'safe and steady' candidate. He can let his surrogates do the work for him," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said.

"He doesn't even need to win Iowa, he just needs to make sure that Gingrich doesn't - and Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann can help him with that."

After a week of intensifying criticism of Gingrich's temperament and judgment, climaxed when Romney called him "zany," his attack machine went dark when the debate lights went on.

A Rasmussen poll showed Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has a slight lead over Gingrich in Iowa, a state Romney has largely bypassed this year after spending millions there in 2008 only to lose.

Polls show Romney also still has a commanding lead in New Hampshire, the state where he has focused his efforts, putting him in prime position to put a stranglehold on the race with strong performances in the first two contests.

Read more from John Whitesides at Reuters

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Romney The Frontrunner Again?

Mitt Romney regained frontrunner status precisely because Newt Gingrich did not win last night's debate. That said, Gingrich could still conceivably win Iowa (along with South Carolina) and cause problems for Romney's coronation, because Ron Paul did his best to emulate Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" when it came to foreign policy last night.

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

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O'Donnell's Endorsement Of Romney Is Just Wrong

Re-Posted From Townhall.com

In case you missed the news (and you probably did), former U.S. Senate candidate and tea party activist Christine O’Donnell endorsed Mitt Romney for president on Tuesday night.

According to O’Donnell, her endorsement of Romney“cam[e] down to trust” among other items.

It’s hard to see how can anyone within the tea party or the Republican Party can trust O’Donnell given that she has been nothing short of a bad circus sideshow since she captured the 2010 U.S. Senate GOP primary in Delaware.

To be perfectly honest, everything about this endorsement is just wrong on so many levels.

While it is true that Romney had the guts to endorse O’Donnell’s failed Senate bid, it is quite clear that she is looking to do more than just repay a political favor.

When asked by Fox News’ Sean Hannity if she plans on running for office again, O’Donnell responded “most likely, probably.”

Apparently, O’Donnell figures that if she ties her name to Romney’s bid, she may be afforded the opportunity to refloat her sunken political career – particularly if Romney wins the GOP nomination and the White House.

My inner-Karl Rove tells me that Team Romney will think twice before allowing O’Donnell to represent the campaign in an official capacity.

To be fair to Romney, candidates cannot always help who endorses them, but one other glaring item caught my eye – Team Romney seemed to be touting the O’Donnell endorsement as a sign that the campaign is able to connect with Republicans beyond establishment circles.

Mitt Romney may still have the best shot at winning the Republican presidential nomination, particularly from a fundraising and organizing perspective, but Romney will need a lot more than an O’Donnell endorsement to break through the anti-Romney voting bloc.

Ford O’Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, the editor of The Political Quarterback blog and an advisor to conservative candidates.

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Obama Bolstered By Republican Fight, Economic Gains

President Barack Obama's re-election hopes in 2012 could be getting brighter as the bruising Republican nomination fight intensifies and the struggling U.S. economy shows signs of hope.

Obama's approval rating of 47 percent is little changed since the beginning of the year as the Republicans stumble, suggesting that the increasingly bitter fight for the right to challenge him in November could be taking its toll on his potential rivals.

A series of high-profile debates have given broad exposure to a Republican race marked by wild mood swings all year. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and now Gingrich all have taken turns near the top of the Republican pack along with the steady Romney.

But each of those contenders has fallen back through missteps or, in Cain's case, allegations of an extramarital affair, dimming their chances and perhaps influencing the public's view of all the Republican contenders.

"As the voters get a better sense of their choices, Obama is starting to come out better," said Republican Dan Schnur, an aide on John McCain's 2000 presidential bid. "The general impression of Republicans is being colored by the whole field."

A slowly improving economy also could bolster Obama's chances heading into next November's election. A Reuters poll of economists showed on Wednesday they expect the economy will grow moderately in 2012, at 2.1 percent.

A drop in the unemployment rate last month to 8.6 percent, as well as relatively strong consumer spending, also has buoyed hopes for the economy.

"Any uptick in the economy between now and Election Day is going to benefit the president," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "He's still better than a coin flip to win this."

Obama predicted earlier this week the unemployment rate could be down to around 8 percent by November, a figure that would be critical to his re-election bid.

Read more from John Whitesides and Jeff Mason at Reuters


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Ron Paul Gains Ground, Further Stirring Republicans

U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul declared on Wednesday his campaign was "peaking at the right time" as polls show him closing in on the two perceived front-runners.

The libertarian congressman from Texas with a passionate core of followers complained that pundits were dismissing his longshot campaign prematurely and sounded optimistic about catching former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former U.S. House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich.

All three and others are seeking to represent the Republicans and unseat Democratic President Barack Obama next November. The first of a series of Republican nominating contests is set for Jan. 3 in Iowa.

"The momentum is building up and a lot of the candidates so far would come and go. They would shoot to the top and drop back rapidly. Ours has been very steady growth, then in this last week or two there has been a sudden extra growth," Paul told reporters after meeting voters in Amherst, New Hampshire.

Public Policy Polling released a survey on Tuesday showing him one percentage point behind Gingrich for the lead in Iowa.

Paul took 21 percent in the survey compared to 22 percent for Gingrich with Romney third at 16 percent.

"In political terms, it probably means we're peaking at the right time," Paul said.

Paul, who is making his third bid for the White House, is unlikely to take the nomination. But he may influence the race all the way to the end, acquiring delegates that stand to give him clout at the party's nominating convention next August.

He could tilt the nomination to one candidate should the race remain undecided by convention time.

"He definitely takes more from Gingrich than he does from Romney," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who said he is neutral in the nominating process. "He's doing to Newt Gingrich what Romney hasn't been able to do. In a lot of ways he's Newt Gingrich's worst nightmare."

Read more from Daniel Trotta at Reuters


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