Many Open Doors Await Bobby Jindal

Hours after the news Tuesday night that Bobby Jindal was suspending his bid for the Republican nomination for president, there was fresh speculation that the two-term governor of Louisiana would become a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

A Senate bid by Jindal would, of course, depend upon whether incumbent GOP Sen. David Vitter is elected as governor himself on Nov. 21, or, if defeated, he decides not to seek re-election to his present office in 2016.

The latest Market Research Insight poll showed that among likely voters statewide, Democrat John Bel Edwards leads Vitter by 52 percent to 38 percent The UNO Survey Research Center showed Edwards trouncing Vitter by 56 percent to 34 percent.

Although none wanted to say anything that would be considered harmful to Vitter’s chances of being elected, several state and national GOP leaders privately believe that, if he loses the governorship, the senator would most likely not run again for his present office in 2016. 

“It's a possibility,” veteran GOP consultant Ford O’Connell said of a Senate bid by Jindal, “He's 44 and while his approval numbers aren't great back home, the Republican bench is weak in Louisiana and he is the only one with a state-wide infrastructure and name recognition.”

Read more from John Gizzi at Newsmax

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Rand Paul Treads Carefully On Foreign Policy After Paris Attacks

While many of his Republican rivals are publicly calling for stronger military action against the Islamic State following last Friday's terror attacks in Paris, GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul has been distinctly careful to react.

The Kentucky senator was one of six GOP candidates to address voters in Orlando, Fla., Saturday at the 2015 Sunshine Summit, but the only White House hopeful to steer clear of addressing the tragedy in Paris at length.

Veteran campaign strategist Ford O'Connell says Paul is stuck "walking a tightrope because if he starts advocating a more muscular foreign policy, his libertarian supporters will abandon him."

"He really cannot go out and say anything really unless the dust has settled," O'Connell told the Washington Examiner.

"He's going to try to stonewall for as long as possible," the former McCain-Palin adviser said, adding that Paul is likely to "find himself left out of the conversation whether by choice or not."

O'Connell continued, "This is literally just not his cycle. If there is another attack or the entire conversation shifts to foreign policy, he's going to find himself in a lot of trouble."

Read more from Gabby Morrongiello at The Washington Examiner

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Trump Is Going Nuclear On White House Rival Carson. Here's Why

Donald Trump has dramatically escalated his attacks on his nearest rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Ben Carson. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll may explain why: the billionaire real estate magnate is bleeding support among avid church-goers and women to the retired neurosurgeon. 

While the unconstrained Trump has a comfortable double-digit lead over the soft-spoken Carson, the data points to a possible emerging threat to Trump's hopes of capturing the party's nomination for the November 2016 election. 

The poll of likely Republican primary voters also shows that Carson is drawing strong support from the rural Midwest, including Iowa, which holds the first Republican nominating contest on Feb. 1. Trump, in contrast, is drawing strong support in the northeast and southeast.

"If Carson keeps his nose clean he could win those states and could catch lightning in a bottle," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist not affiliated with either campaign.

Carson's growing support with women and blue collar voters may explain Trump's recent attacks on his rival, said O'Connell. Trump has highlighted media reports questioning elements of Carson's personal story, and on Thursday he called Carson "pathological" and likened him to a child molester.

"Trump is desperate to consolidate the 'outsider' vote. The blue collar vote is very, very key to Trump's success in that. He has tried everything to shake Carson off and it hasn't worked, so he has decided to go nuclear," said O'Connell, an advisor to Republican Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.

Read more from Tim Reid and Chris Kahn at Reuters

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Marco Rubio Is A Candidate To Watch In Lead Up To 2016 U.S. Elections: Experts

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, the youngest Republican candidate to fight for the Republican Party (GOP) nomination, could be the party's main hope to beat Democrat rival Hillary Clinton, experts said.

Indeed, there has been talk in U.S. media recently that donors start to shift their funding away from early GOP favorite Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and brother and son of two former presidents. While Bush just a few months ago was considered a shoo-in for the nomination, he has been trailing in the polls and has not made an impressive show in any of the four GOP debates.

Although polls have Rubio trailing front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson, Rubio has fared well in recent GOP debates, especially the debate earlier this week that saw more than a dozen candidates in a verbal joust to gain the nomination.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that at least over the last several debates, Rubio has been "the most substantive while also looking presidential."

Indeed, until votes are cast, it will be difficult to forecast who will get the most support from voters, although Rubio is certainly attracting attention away from Jeb Bush, O'Connell said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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On Foreign Policy, The GOP Candidates Are ‘All Over The Map’

Donald Trump is “100 percent” in favor of Vladi­mir Putin demolishing the Islamic State terror group. Jeb Bush thinks he’s “absolutely wrong.” Marco Rubio has written off Rand Paul as a “committed isolationist” while Ted Cruz positions himself in the ideal “middle ground” between them. 

Welcome to the Republican Party’s foreign policy muddle. While the GOP is relishing a chance to vigorously prosecute what it has disparagingly dubbed the “Obama-Clinton foreign policy legacy” in the general election, it first must resolve its own identity crisis, as evident in the fourth Republican debate Tuesday night

An eclectic cast of White House hopefuls sharing a stage in Milwaukee were in discord over Russia, Syria, Islamic terrorism and military spending. In one camp were staunch hawks including Bush and Rubio. In another stood more dovish candidates Paul and Trump. 

“There’s no question that among the candidates on the stage, the party is all over the map,” said Ford O’Connell, who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and is neutral in the race. O’Connell voiced confidence that eventually, the hawks will prevail.

Read more from Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post

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Rubio, Cruz, Moderators Win Big

Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were almost universally judged the big winners Tuesday night by a group of neutral observers who spoke to me shortly after the fourth and latest televised forum concluded in Milwaukee.

They almost unanimously put Carly Fiorina in the winner’s circle with Rubio and Cruz. Their praise of the California businesswoman’s performance on stage Tuesday was in sharp contrast to the widespread panning she drew after the last debate in October.

GOP consultant Ford O’Connell agreed. Rubio “was without question the most substantive while looking presidential. I suspect this will help Rubio gain greater ‘insider’ traction. Cruz was the runner-up and Fiorina also had a solid night.”

He added that “Trump and Bush didn’t help their causes, but in Trump’s case I am not sure it matters.”

Both Pietrusza and O’Connell agreed that it was a bad night for John Kasich, with O’Connell concluding the Ohio governor “is about five minutes from no longer being on the main stage in the next debate.” 

Read more from John Gizzi at Newsmax

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GOP Pundits Pick Rubio As Debate Winner

In a wide-ranging Tuesday night debate in Milwaukee, the top-tier Republicans squared off for a fourth time. The Hill asked seven conservative pundits for their views on the showdown. Here are their thoughts:

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Rubio

Why: While I don't think this debate changed much in terms of the overall horse race, Rubio was without question the most substantive while also looking presidential. I suspect this will help Rubio gain greater "insider" traction. Cruz was the runner-up, and Fiorina also had a solid night. Carson might have put the biographical questions to rest, but he raised a bunch of questions about his domestic and foreign policy acumen. Trump and Bush didn't help their causes, but in Trump's case, I am not sure it matters. Paul was an effective martyr at times, but this is just not his cycle. Kasich is literally five minutes from no longer being on the main stage. (Paging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the main stage.)

O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and is author of the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."

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With Fourth Republican Debate In 3 Months, Candidates Continue To Be Must-See TV, Analysts Say

The fluctuating race for the Republican presidential nomination has seen poll numbers rise and fall rise after each debate, prompting candidates' campaigns to draft a list of demands for greater control in future debates, then abandoning those demands before continuing to complain about supposed unfairnesses in these events. Although two candidates have maintained lofty polling positions, it's still technically a toss-up, something that has intrigued potential voters, as evidenced by record-setting TV viewership.

But as each GOP candidate looks to capitalize on the attention that comes with the spotlight of a presidential debate -- such as Tuesday night's, the fourth GOP debate --political analysts said it's the element of uncertainty coupled with the wide GOP field and the party’s desire to take back the White House that is likely to keep viewers tuning in as the campaign season proceeds.

“Here’s what keeps Republicans interested is that they want to win in 2016, and they don’t know which one of these guys or gal is going to win,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “The fact that we don’t who’s going to win is going to keep people watching.”

Read more from Abigail Abrams at International Business Times

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Attacking The Media A Wise Strategy For GOP Candidates, Experts Say…For Now

Attacking the media rather than answering reporters' questions may be an effective approach for Republican presidential candidates like Dr. Ben Carson at this point in a campaign, but political scientists and Republican strategists say the tactic has limitations in the long run.

Carson faced increasing scrutiny last week after he took a lead over Donald Trump in two national polls, but his campaign pushed back hard when reporters raised doubts about certain aspects of his biography. He then thanked the "biased media" on Twitter for helping him raise $3.5 million in a week.

Political communications experts and strategists agree that the scrutiny Carson is under is appropriate and expected given his place in the polls, but they also say complaining about alleged media bias can be a highly effective short-term strategy, especially in a Republican primary.

"It's been effective since Nixon [was] doing it," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. However, he added candidates need to be cautious about how often they rely on it.

"It's one thing to complain every now and then...When you do it all the time, you start to look defensive and weak."

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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Ben Carson Biography: Amid Media Scrutiny, Can Republican Presidential Candidate Keep Blaming The Press For Stories' Inconsistencies?

Candidates in the Republican primary field are getting ready for their fourth debate, and on Tuesday Dr. Ben Carson is likely to face more difficult questioning than he’s seen so far in his campaign. The retired neurosurgeon has breached the top of the Republican pack and has already been the subject of deep media scrutiny over suspicions that he mischaracterized portions of his past.

Carson’s approval seems resilient to the attacks for now, an possible indication that his supporters may be less concerned with the notion that he’s not being completely truthful than they are with what has been characterized as attacks on Republicans from liberal media. But while Carson may be wise to take a hard stance against his media criticism at this point, crisis communications experts say his campaign needs to be wary of the potential for things to spiral out of control.

For now, Carson’s message and defense of his biographical anecdotes will likely resonate with Republican primary voters who are deeply distrustful of mainstream media outlets posing questions about his history. Eventually, the nominating process could lead him to face more moderate voters who may not be so readily accepting of his defense that it’s all a misinterpretation by journalists.

“Carson is No. 1 because basically there isn’t anyone in the Republican electorate who doesn’t like him and if he loses that likeability factor he’s going to go south fast,” Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked for the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign, said. “He’s got to cut down on the verbal miscues. He’s been given a lot of leeway and thus far they have not hurt him. But eventually the political laws of gravity are going to kick in. Everything else [he] say[s] is going to be magnified now.”

Read more from Clark Mindock at International Business Times

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