Right Says Republicans Must Get Specific To Roll Back Liberal Tide

Get specific. 

That’s the message conservative intellectuals and strategists have for the Republican Party as it faces an assault from President Obama and Democrats on issues resonant with struggling voters such as the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits.

Obama’s income inequality push comes as the tide appears to be rising for the left on economic and social issues, something evident in everything from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s election to the legal selling of marijuana in Colorado.

There are a number of signs of Republicans trying to strengthen their flank on issues relating to poorer people in particular. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) has put forth a plan to help alleviate poverty by consolidating funding for many federal programs and then devolving power for how those funds are spent to the states. 

Other prominent Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have been trying to get the party onto the front foot when it comes to explaining how its policies might help people at all strata of society.

But more needs to be done, some conservatives argue.

“Republicans trumpet ‘free enterprise’, ‘personal responsibility’ like a college fight-song but they never explain how it is going to better the lives of people outside the conservative echo chamber,” strategist Ford O’Connell says. “It’s a major problem.”

Strategists like O’Connell worry that this tendency is putting their party behind the eight ball in presidential elections, making it increasingly difficult for Republicans to win the electoral college.

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Christie Flies To Florida, Followed By Questions

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will visit Florida this weekend to raise money for Gov. Rick Scott, his first major fundraising trip as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. The trip may answer some questions about how the scandal over lane closures at the George Washington Bridge will affect his path to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

ROSE: Christie has another tough job to do. As chairman of the Republican Governor's Association, he's tasked with raising $100 million to help governors around the country who are running for election in 2014. And Christie is the star attraction this weekend at a series of fundraising events for big time Republican donors in Florida.

FORD O'CONNELL: A lot of donors are really sort of taking a wait-and-see approach.

ROSE: Ford O'Connell is a Republican strategist. Technically Christie's weekend events are for the RGA and Florida Governor Rick Scott. But O'Connell says they're also an opportunity for Christie to reassure supporters ahead of his possible presidential run in 2016.

O'CONNELL: He needs to reach out to donors and let them know that, you know, everything's OK on his end because donors are a pretty risk adverse crowd. And if you cannot get the donors on your side, you won't be able to raise the money to be a frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

Read more from Joel Rose at NPR

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Why Democrats And The Liberal Media Want To Destroy Chris Christie

For Republicans, the question of which candidate would give the party its best chance to reclaim the White House in 2016 is still very much open. Scott Walker slayed the public sector unions in Wisconsin. Rick Perry might remember that third department to eliminate. Ted Cruz certainly has made a mark in his short time in the Senate, and Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and others still could shake things up.

But Democrats have made their judgment as to which Republican they fear most – and the answer is Chris Christie.

This explains the strange things that have been happening with your TV. Your cable system likely has several hundred channels, and all of them are reporting on Bridgegate. You keep switching and switching – you need new batteries for the remote – but the story is always the same.

What did the governor know about his staff deliberately causing traffic tie-ups in Fort Lee, N.J., and when did he know it? Who were these staffers? And why didn't he supervise them better? Why did they lie to him? Did they do this to the mayor of Jersey City as well? And what about the Hurricane Sandy money? Is this guy Tony Soprano with a closer-to-legit job?

Not since the inglorious end to the neighborhood watch surveillance career of one George Zimmerman has the nation's media – aka the information arm of the Democratic Party – been so obsessed with a scandal. It seems as if there are more reporters on this story than on Benghazi, the IRS harassment of tea party groups and the failed rollout of Obamacare combined.

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

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Gillespie Puts Va. In Play For GOP

In deeply divided Virginia, there’s rare bipartisan agreement — former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie is the strongest candidate the GOP could field against Sen. Mark Warner (D). 

Even Democrats admit Republicans accomplished a coup by landing Gillespie, a former top adviser to President George W. Bush and powerhouse lobbyist. But both parties concur the popular Warner will be hard to oust.

Even if the newly minted candidate isn’t favored yet in the commonwealth contest, there seems to be nothing but positives to landing Gillespie for the GOP. His candidacy at least gives Republicans a chance to contest Virginia, which many had written off months ago. 

Gillespie’s entrance also forces Democrats into yet another competitive race, further expanding an already dismal map, where they’re defending many vulnerable incumbents in red states to keep Senate control. Republican strategists believe if President Obama’s numbers are bad enough in Virginia on Election Day, Warner could be vulnerable.

Gillespie will also have to win the nomination in a GOP convention, which often boosts conservatives over establishment Republicans. His two opponents appear to be weak, and conservative outside groups showed no interest in taking on Gillespie, but there’s no guarantee he’ll win the nomination. After a series of bruising intraparty squabbles last year that many establishment Republicans believe cost them a chance at the governor’s mansion, they don’t want that to happen again. 

“Gillespie gives us the best shot, hands down. But he's really going to have to have a lot of things go in his favor,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who has worked on a number of Virginia races.

“For him to win, he's going to have to give Virginians a reason to support him beyond ObamaCare and the president's abysmal record. And he's going to need Warner to make some mistakes on the campaign trail.”

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Christie Takes Scandal Damage Test With Election Fundraising

The first real test of the damage to Chris Christie's chances of being the Republican nominee for president in 2016 from the "Bridgegate" scandal could come during the next few days.

Christie is scheduled to attend a $1,000-per-ticket reception for New Jersey Republican House candidate Steve Lonegan on Thursday. He then will head to Florida for a series of weekend events aimed at raising money for Republican Governor Rick Scott's re-election campaign, plus a meeting with wealthy Republican donors from all over the United States.

Interviews with a half-dozen Republican strategists, donors and operatives indicate that if Christie is interested in a bid for the White House, as many suspect, he has some work to do.

He needs to reassure big-money donors - even those who have seen him as the party's best hope of winning the race to be Democratic President Barack Obama's successor - that the scandal in which his aides apparently created massive traffic jams to get back at a Democratic politician in New Jersey will not grow enough to destroy his prospects.

"Everyone is worried," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "But the donors are going to take a wait-and-see approach. They're not cutting off the spigot yet."

Read more from Gabriel Debendetti at Reuters

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The New Benghazi Report: A Thorn For Hillary Clinton?

A newly-released Senate Intelligence Committee report, which found that the September 2012 attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi could have been prevented, has given Republicans newfound ammunition as they seek to undermine Hillary Clinton and thwart her potential presidential candidacy in 2016.

Republicans, after all, have continually tried to blame the then-secretary of state for the tragedy, which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Conservative lawmakers frequently pointed to cables from Stevens and his staff requesting more security and accused the Obama administration of deceiving the country by initially suggesting the attack was something other than terrorism.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said the right would certainly use the report “to discredit” Clinton should she become the Democratic nominee. “It adds more fuel to the fire and contributes to the overall narrative of her being unfit to be president.”

Read more from Aliyah Frumin at MSNBC.com

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Transparency Bill Shows GOP Election-year Shift On Obamacare

The Republican-controlled House this week is set to follow up passage of an Obamacare privacy bill with a transparency measure that could attract dozens of Democratic votes — a sign the GOP is shifting from efforts to repeal the health care law to a more nuanced approach in a midterm election year.

Republican leadership wants the federal government to issue weekly reports on enrollment through the law’s state-based insurance markets. Right now, the Obama administration is putting out data once a month.

The legislation arrives on the heels of a House measure that would require the government to notify consumers within two days if their personal data is breached on the web-based health exchanges. The chamber passed that bill Friday, 291 to 122, with the help of 67 Democrats.

The GOP hopes to win back the Senate and retain its House majority in November by maintaining a focus on Obamacare’s failings. The Affordable Care Act got a rocky rollout in the fall, and the Obama administration has had to beat back criticism over the law’s coverage requirements and mandates.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said the law remains the “golden goose” for a Republican Party hoping to hold sway with voters in November.

“That is their job — to keep the spotlight on it and offer solutions, where plausible,” he said.

Read more from Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times

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Bridge Scandal A Make-Pr-Break Test For NJ Governor On Road To White House

Likely 2016 U.S. Republican presidential contender Chris Christie is facing his first test in a bid to take the White House amid a scandal that has rocked his administration and grabbed national headlines.

At issue is whether the governor of the U.S. state of New Jersey can survive a scandal whereby his administration allegedly orchestrated the closure of two lanes of a bridge to neighboring New York City, causing major traffic jams, in an effort to punish a local New Jersey mayor for not endorsing Christie's re-election bid.

What's more, paramedics trying to reach a 91-year-old woman got stuck in traffic during four days of lane closure in September, and the woman died after suffering a cardiac arrest, according to news reports.

In response, Christie fired a staffer allegedly responsible for the plot and the usually bombastic and at times confrontational governor appeared apologetic at a news conference Thursday.

Some experts said Christie's two-hour press briefing was a wise move, wearing down reporters and allowing them to ask any and all questions on their minds in a bid to put the scandal behind him as soon as possible.

"This has very serious potential to blunt his 2016 aspirations. But only time will tell whether he's down for the count," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

"Yes, he can survive this. But if he survives it and doesn't keep his crossover appeal intact, his 2016 chances are definitely blunted," O'Connell said, referring to Christie's appeal to people on both sides of the political divide.

"Thus far, he's said and done the right things. From a PR perspective, he did all that he could do," he said.

If Christie wins the GOP primary in the lead-up to the 2016 elections, he would have to beat likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"The reason he's leading her (Clinton) in the polls right now is his crossover appeal," O'Connell said. That means he cannot just survive the scandal, but must continue to appeal to both Republicans and swing voters, he added.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Can Christie Bridge The Scandal To 2016?

Will "bridgegate" derail Chris Christie's presidential aspirations for 2016?

It certainly could, particularly if information emerges that the popular governor of New Jersey knew about the plan to deliberately snarl traffic on the New Jersey side of the George Washington Memorial Bridge. Christie has burned his bridge, so to speak, on this. He has openly and specifically denied any knowledge of it. If we learn he lied, he's toast.

But if this doesn't happen, he'll probably, in the words of David Axelrod, longtime political advisor to President Obama, "live to fight another day."

Fight, perhaps. But win? That's a more complicated question. He has taken all the right steps – are you taking notes, President Obama? He held a two-hour all-comers press conference. He jettisoned longtime trusted aides. He promised further reforms. And, most importantly, he took responsibility.

His performance on Thursday could be critical to his future. The B word – "bully" – has long dogged Christie's political career. He seems to know this and has attempted to address it in a variety of ways even before this story broke.

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

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Chris Christie Bridge Scandal: Did Press Conference Save His Future?

To save his political future, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie needed to cover major ground in his marathon press conference Thursday over a scandalous traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge last September, political observers say.

Governor Christie (R), seen as a likely candidate for president in 2016, needed to apologize, fire someone, and look completely sincere in the process.

He did all of the above. But Christie’s not out of the woods on “Bridgegate.” His reputation for managerial skill and straight talk has been dinged, even as he maintained he had no involvement or knowledge of the traffic scheme. Some questions remain. And he is now on notice that if anything new comes out that contradicts what he said Thursday, he may not recover.

The episode is “definitely a mark against him, but on the flip side it’s the first true test of whether he’s ready for prime time in a 2016 run,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Lord knows what Democratic trackers will pop up against him. But right now, he’s saying and doing the right thing.”

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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