Clinton Preps Possible White House Run With Midterm Rallies In Places Inhospitable To Obama

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have made several campaign appearances in Kentucky this election cycle -- the latest this weekend.

The Clintons' 2014 campaign tour, which has taken them to a number of swing states, may help keep Democrats close -- or even propel them to victory -- in this inhospitable election cycle. Equally significant, it will prove valuable if the country's former chief diplomat, as expected, decides to run for president in 2016.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, a veteran of the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign, said the Clintons are also collecting political chits, supporting politicians who in turn would presumably support her in the future.

"She's 99 percent in already," O'Connell said. If that's the case, the warmup will do her good. "This is not going to be the cakewalk she thinks she is, particularly in a Democratic primary."

Read more from Manuel Quiñones at Environment & Energy Publishing

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Ford O'Connell On Fox News Talking GOP Push For Midwest House Seats

Democratic strategist Joe Lestingi and Ford O'Connell on which party has the edge election night in Illinois-12, Illinois-10, Minn-8 and Iowa-1 and Iowa-2.

Watch the video at 

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The House GOP's Expectations Game

Republicans are trying to downplay expectations for their "Drive to 245" campaign to expand their House majority in Tuesday's midterm elections.

Only about 30 races are considered competitive this cycle, and the GOP needs a net gain of 11 seats in order to reach their goal of a 245-member House majority.

Republicans say that even pick-ups in the high single digits will amount to a successful Election Night for them even if they don't reach the National Republican Congressional Committee's (NRCC) goal. 

"If we got close to double digits, we'd consider that a really good night. Nine would really be huge for us," said a Republican strategist involved with House races. "If we don't hit the 'Drive to 245,' we don't see that as falling short."

Of course, downplaying expectations now when Republicans are expected to make gains in the House and Senate would make achieving their originally stated goal look like an even better accomplishment. 

"Rule number one in politics is under-sell and over-deliver," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said.

Read more from Cristina Marcos at The Hill

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Mark Warner’s Halloween Mask Of Moderation

Mark R. Warner is going door to door on Halloween with a nifty disguise. The freshman Democratic senator is wearing the mask of a moderate. It’s a trick to get his liberal voting record past Virginians amid the wave of anti-Democratic sentiment sweeping the nation.

Mr. Warner is leading Ed Gillespie, his Republican challenger, but not so comfortably as he once did. He remains below the 50 percent mark in the polls, and that’s a place no incumbent wants to be only four or five days out. Voters think they already know him. He’s not likely to pick up more votes before Tuesday. Mr. Gillespie is only now getting widely known, and can expect to pick up support as Virginia sees him as the most authentic man in the race.

New numbers compiled by CQ Weekly tear away Mr. Warner’s moderate mask to reveal someone with a perfect 117-for-117 record of backing President Obama’s liberal agenda in the Senate. Whenever the White House says jump, Mr. Warner dutifully asks, “How high?”

Mr. Warner boasts of reaching across the aisle to co-sponsor bills. It’s part of the Halloween disguise. “He likes to tout his bipartisan work,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, “but he’s really been a pack mule for Obama and the Democrats.”

Read more from The Washington Times

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The Message of This Election Year: Congress Should Listen To The People

A year ago, it was nearly unthinkable that Eric Cantor would not be returning for his eighth term as the representative from Virginia’s 7th Congressional District. His primary defeat in June sent shockwaves through the halls of Congress and, as Election Day nears, it’s worth recalling the former majority leader’s fate.

Initially, some thought that Cantor’s stance on immigration reform was the cause of his undoing, but polling data did not bear this out. A more likely cause was the perception that he had spent too much time in Washington and lost touch with his constituents back home. In a piece for U.S. News & World Report, GOP strategist Ford O’Connell wrote that Cantor “walked the halls of power instead of the streets of his suburban Richmond district.”

Looking back, the biggest surprise of that election wasn’t the downfall of a senior leader in Congress, as much as the fact that this doesn’t actually happen more often. Study after study shows approval ratings for Congress at an all-time low.

Read more from Steven Kull at the Richmond Times-Dispatch

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The Reagan Reflex

The Speech was the speech that Reagan gave on prime-time television on October 27, 1964—fifty years ago this week—as a campaign address in support of Barry Goldwater, the Republican Presidential nominee. It accomplished less for Goldwater than it did for Reagan himself; it propelled him, immediately and justifiably, into a kind of stardom that he had never quite achieved in Hollywood. That half hour on NBC did for Reagan and modern conservatism what “The Ed Sullivan Show,” six months earlier, had done for the Beatles, rock music, and popular culture: it drew a bright line between the past and the future. The Speech—rechristened, for that occasion, as “A Time for Choosing”—helped to define the G.O.P. and conservative politics for more than a generation.

There is a tension between being the “next Ronald Reagan” and being one’s own person. Some Republicans recognize this. “Ronald Reagan is dead. Accept it,” Ford O’Connell, a Party strategist, wrote, in a recent book. “The Reagan fixation is a drag on the future success of the GOP.… It undermines the candidates because it becomes a crutch for their inability to articulate an actual agenda or a forward-looking vision.” Michael Gerson, George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter, has cautioned that “the next GOP presidential nominee cannot be … prone to Reagan-era rhetoric about tax rates and regulatory burdens.”

Read more from Jeff Shesol at The New Yorker

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Hillary Clinton Backtracks On Job-Creation Gaffe

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to walk back comments she made Friday when she told Boston Democrats that corporations don’t create jobs, a gaffe that caught fire on the Internet over the weekend and had the likely 2016 White House contender in full backpedaling mode yesterday.

“I short-handed this point the other day, so let me be absolutely clear about what I’ve been saying for a couple of decades,” Clinton said in a stump speech in New York for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, according to multiple media outlets.

The Herald reported Saturday that Clinton’s original remarks, made at a Hub fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Martha Coakley, sent shock waves through the Twittersphere. “Don’t let anybody tell you it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” Clinton told a packed ballroom at the Park Plaza Hotel.

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who preceded Clinton on stage and has recently opened the door to a presidential run of her own, sounded a similar theme in 2011 when she said, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.”

Yesterday, observers on both sides of the aisle questioned whether the centrist Clinton was hearing Warren’s footsteps coming up on her left flank.

“It’s clear that Hillary Clinton is looking over her shoulder and realizing she can be very vulnerable to a challenger in the Democratic party,” said GOP operative Ford O’Connell. “In many ways, she’s the quarterback who has the yips. She’s about to be named the starter, and she’s showing her nervousness.”

Read more from Matt Stout at The Boston Herald

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Senate Control In Limbo Until 2015?

Election Day 2014 is just eight days away, but control of the Senate might not be known for two more months. 

Observers and pundits on both sides expect Louisiana's Senate race to go to a December runoff between Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy.

However, less attention is being paid to Amanda Swafford, the Georgia Libertarian who could deny Senate candidates in her state a required 50 percent majority on Election Day.

Georgia's runoff wouldn't occur until Jan. 6, the day after the new Congress is set to meet. Could these Southern states block the one thing every election watcher truly wants: a clear answer on the morning of Nov. 5?

The runoffs pose challenges for both parties, not just coordinating logistics and new spending, but motivating volunteers and voters all over again, along with crafting an effective message and strategy under untested and unusual circumstances.

Republicans admit while their supporters are more enthusiastic than Democrats, turning them out to the polls during an oddly scheduled runoff election might be more of a challenge. 

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s (R-Ga.) 2008 runoff, noted Democratic voters are typically consolidated around urban centers, but Republicans are scattered throughout the state’s rural areas.

“It's probably easier if you're a Democrat to round up the voters than it is for Republicans,” he said.

That’s where enthusiasm for Republicans, in both states, becomes paramount. O’Connell noted that, in 2008 Chambliss brought in high-powered surrogates to draw attention to his candidacy, a tactic that becomes even more important when the fight is drawn out over three months.

Read more from Alexandra Jaffe at The Hill

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President Hillary Clinton Key To Nancy Pelosi’s Return As Speaker

Nancy Pelosi has made clear she wants to make history again. Not this year but in 2016, when she hopes to reclaim the House speakership under a President Hillary Rodham Clinton and shatter the glass ceiling to smithereens.

But first she must hold down Democratic losses on election day, or risk seeing that vision slip out of reach.

“If the Republicans were to net 12 or 13 seats, it would be next to impossible for Nancy to take over the speaker’s gavel even if Hillary won” in 2016, said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “The Republicans would almost have a Hillary-proof majority.”

Republicans now hold 234 House seats out of 435. Just a dozen more would give them their biggest majority since Harry Truman was president in 1946.

Although California has reformed its election laws to remove control of redistricting from politicians, gerrymandering in the rest of the country means only about 50 House seats are in play in any election, O’Connell said. With the GOP dominating deeply conservative states, primarily in the South, O’Connell calculates that the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016 would have to win in a landslide to pull along enough of the party’s House candidates to reinstall Pelosi as speaker.

Read more from Carolyn Lochhead at The San Francisco Chronicle

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Election 2014: Rise Of Independents Scrambles The Math

Independents are on the rise in the 2014 election – both as candidates and voters – and in some states, the impact could be profound.

The starkest example is in deep-red Kansas, where independent Senate candidate Greg Orman threatens to unseat three-term incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R), in a race with no Democrat. A victory by Mr. Orman could cost Republicans’ their goal of retaking the Senate. The race is a tossup.

Next come the voters themselves. For the past decade, Americans have been abandoning the two major parties in growing numbers and identifying as independent. In its latest analysis of the US electorate, Gallup found that 42 percent of Americans self-identify as independent – the highest number Gallup has found since it began interviewing people by telephone 25 years ago.  Only 25 percent of Americans call themselves Republican and 31 percent identify as Democrats, Gallup found.

“Both parties are in the dumpster with Americans,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “At the rate we’re going, by 2016 the two dirtiest words in political language are going to be Republican and Democrat.”

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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