What Christie And McAuliffe Mean For 2016

It may be three years away, but the 2016 presidential election cast a long shadow over the races for governor in New Jersey and Virginia. Now the results are in, it begs the question: What does the re-election of a Republican governor in true blue New Jersey and the election of a high-profile Hillary Clinton ally in deep purple Virginia tell us about the next presidential contest?

On Tuesday night, the popular and larger-than-life Republican Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, trounced a little-known middle-ground Democratic state senator by winning over large swathes of women and minority voters who are typically wary of today's GOP, the party that largely caters to old white males.

Two hundred miles southwest in Virginia, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a close ally of Hillary and Bill Clinton, eked out a victory over Tea Party favorite Ken Cuccinelli, largely by running up the score with single women.

It may be three years away, but the 2016 presidential election cast a long shadow over the races for governor in New Jersey and Virginia. Now the results are in, it begs the question: What does the re-election of a Republican governor in true blue New Jersey and the election of a high-profile Hillary Clinton ally in deep purple Virginia tell us about the next presidential contest?

Among the Republican establishment, Christie's message was heard loud and clear. "It shows the Republicans that if you can expand the tent of voters, you can go to great places," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. Those margins are "like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon if you're a Republican."

That message, O'Connell said, was only made stronger by what happened in Virginia, where Cuccinelli, the Tea Party candidate, narrowly lost to former Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe in a race that pitted an ultraconservative Republican against a weak, widely distrusted Democrat. "What it shows you is if you want to win, regardless of the circumstances, you're going to have to get beyond the base," O'Connell said.

Read more from Pema Levy at Newsweek

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Book: GOP Needs To Embrace The Pop Culture Presidency

Republicans need to stop sniveling about President Obama's pop culture presidency and book themselves on ESPN and Bravo to fight back, says GOP strategist Ford O'Connell in his new book "Hail Mary."

O'Connell argues that the current POTUS understands the "TMZ/ESPN/HBO society" better than most Republicans. "It's a little worse than that, actually," writes O'Connell. "Republicans mock Obama for his television and cultural savvy rather than trying to learn from him."

The new book -- which hit Amazon Tuesday -- uses football analogies (hence the title, "Hail Mary") and a little tough love to offer the GOP a winning playbook for the White House in 2016. O'Connell, a U.S. News opinion contributor, explained that Republicans need to remember that not every American is constantly tuned into politics. "People are not narcissists like politicians who wake up in the morning and read the Washington Post op-ed page -- they don't do that, they don't watch, 'Morning Joe,'" O'Connell told Whispers. "Where are they? They're watching Bravo -- you've got to go where the eyeballs are."

Read more from Nikki Schwab at U.S. News' Washington Whispers

Purchase Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook For Republican Recovery

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Christie’s Win, Cuccinelli’s Loss: Two Playbooks For Defending Against The ‘War On Women’

A year after President Obama rode to re-election accusing Republicans of a war on women, the governor’s races in New Jersey and Virginia offered the GOP two options for how to strike back.

In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie easily defeated a female state senator by staying away from hot-button social issues such as abortion, contraception and gay marriage, and by earning strong support among women for his leadership after Superstorm Sandy.

Further south, however, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II struggled with female voters as he fought to overcome a socially conservative record that Vice President Joseph R. Biden, campaigning for Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe, summed up as “from another era.” One ad running this past week in the Northern Virginia market accused Mr. Cuccinelli of wanting to outlaw contraception, one of a series of attack ads that helped Mr. McAuliffe edge out Mr. Cuccinelli at the ballot box.

“One of the key planks in the Democrats’ ‘win at all costs’ playbook is the ‘war on women’ maneuver,” said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. “While both Cuccinelli and Christie are pro-life, only Cuccinelli fell headlong into this hyper-emotional trap. Christie’s strong favorability with female voters is a testament to his understanding the importance of tone, rhetoric, outreach and personal favorability when conveying one’s views. Cuccinelli, on the other hand, is a textbook example of how not to handle the [Democrats’] propaganda slime.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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Whatever Happened To Marco Rubio?

Chris Christie’s victory galvanized the GOP’s establishment wing on Tuesday as they try to regain control of their party ahead of national elections. The centrist Republican’s glide to re-election in blue New Jersey comes a month after Ted Cruz rallied the Tea Party to shut down the government and promised a bloody revolt against weak-willed RINOs. 

And then there’s Marco Rubio. Remember him? 

“At this juncture he’s gone from ‘establishment frontrunner’ to ‘preferred Vice Presidential candidate’ for just about everyone,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told msnbc. “To the establishment money guys, when Christie says “Hey, I just won arctic blue New Jersey by 20 or 30 points,’ that’s tough to overcome. The fundraisers want to win and they will do what it takes to win.”

The bright side for Rubio is that he has plenty of time to recover.

Read more from Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC.com

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Democrat McAuliffe Elected Virginia Governor

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has won the Virginia governor's race, in a close victory over Tea Party conservative Ken Cuccinelli.

With 97 precincts reporting late Tuesday, McAuliffe edged out Cuccinelli 47 to 46 percent. 

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says Cuccinelli's appeal to ultraconservatives in the Virginia race may have been his downfall. 

"Terry McAuliffe was a very flawed candidate, and Ken Cuccinelli had a great chance of winning this race, but unfortunately his appeal was limited solely to the conservative Tea Party base, and he could never get out of his own way and move forward and appeal to a broader set of voters."

Read more at Voice of America

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Plagiarism Charges Test Paul’s 2016 Run

Sen. Rand Paul’s readiness for a presidential run in 2016 is being put to the test by the plagiarism charges swirling around him.

In an attempt to quiet the controversy, the Kentucky Republican’s office on Tuesday said the vetting process for his speeches would be changed so that “supporting facts and anecdotes” are clearly sourced.

But Paul’s handling of the controversy has raised broader questions about whether he’s ready for the intense media scrutiny that a run for the White House entails.

GOP strategists agree that plagiarism incident is nowhere near disqualifying for 2016, but cautioned it is just a preview of the pressure he’d face in 2016. 

“He just got a taste of what the presidential primary campaign trail is like and the scrutiny that everything you do and say will be under,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “So he is going to have to tighten up how he does things.”

“If he allows this to fester, with his 2016 aspiration, it could become a roadblock. Right now it is just a bump in the road,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Mario Trujillo at The Hill

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'Enormous' Gender Gap Costs Cuccinelli, Republicans In Virginia

Democrat Terry McAuliffe appears on the cusp of a solid victory over Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) following a gubernatorial campaign that underscored ongoing Republican struggles with female voters.

McAuliffe’s lead in the polls was built on a clear gender gap. The Democrat exploited a big fundraising edge to deluge the airwaves with ads focused on Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion, his views on contraception and his failure to support the federal Violence Against Women Act.

Cuccinelli sought to refute the Democratic theme — that he has waged a “war on women” — with ads featuring an African American woman calling McAuliffe’s attacks on his social stances “ridiculous.”

“Cuccinelli couldn't get out of his own way and got slimed with the war on women attack,” says GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He never got outside the conservative echo chamber.”

Mitt Romney was hurt by the same argument, as were a number of Senate candidates in 2012.

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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The Reagan-Christie Model

"Die-hard conservatives thought that if I couldn't get everything I asked for, I should jump off the cliff with the flag flying – go down in flames," a well-known Republican leader once said. "If I can get 70 or 80 percent of what it is I'm trying to get, I'll take that and then continue to try to get the rest in the future."

What would be considered heresy in today's GOP was uttered by Ronald Reagan. As a governor in cosmopolitan California, he balanced the budget by compromising on tax increases. Rather than eliminating welfare, as was his preference, he worked with California's Democrats to overhaul it. He signed into law the nation's first no-fault divorce legislation over conservative opposition.

Even more shocking than this heresy is another: No governor in America is more like Reagan than Chris Christie. This week, the New Jersey governor will offer a desperately needed lesson in political genius to a party currently going the way of the Whigs.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at USA Today

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President Obama Lied About Obamacare – But Will It Matter?

Remember President Obama's trademark phrase on the 2012 presidential campaign trail?: "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan. Period."

Well, he knowingly lied. Period. According to NBC News, as many as 80 percent of the roughly 14 million Americans who purchase insurance individually will have their policies canceled next year because the policies don't meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. For almost all of them, the new policy they will be required to buy will cost more. How much more? The phrase "sticker shock" is thrown around.

The president knew better. As long as three years ago, he knew regulations would prevent most policies from qualifying for the law's grandfathering provision. Depending on which news outlet you trust, he continued to repeat the promise dozens or even hundreds of times since.

So why did the president promise this? Because he wanted to get the legislation enacted and get himself re-elected in 2012. He won by 5 million votes, but if the more than 10 million Americans affected knew last November they were about to lose their coverage and see a dramatic increase in costs thanks to Obamacare, we might well be debating the policies of President Romney right now.

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

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Politics 2014: October 2013 Helps Shape Message For November 2014

The U.S. government shutdown, immigration reform, budget woes, problems with the Affordable Care Act online enrollment created a whirlpool of controversy and contretemps for Washington and provided blood-stirring language for the 2014 midterm elections and beyond.

Poll after poll after poll released after the federal government partially closed because the money ran out were variations on a theme: Republicans took a hit. A big hit.

President Obama and Democrats didn't come through unscathed, but definitely not as tarnished as Republicans in the budget confrontation.

Obama, however, took it on the chin with the less-than-smooth rollout of healthcare.gov, the site for Americans looking for and enrolling in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

The site went up on the same day the government shut down, so Obama's pain didn't begin until it became the only political game in town two weeks later.

That optimism is tempered by concerns the botched rollout of Obamacare could muck up the electoral horizon and negate gains Democrats made during the government shutdown at the expense of the GOP.

"They certainly made the road to a Senate majority much more difficult," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said of Republicans who embraced the shutdown strategy.

If Obamacare ends up clearly hurting consumers, Republicans could argue their reasoning for shutting down the government was sound, said Jennifer Duffy, a Senate analyst for the Cook Report.

Read more from Nicole Debevec at United Press International 

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