Brown Shrugs Off Warren Calling Him Underdog In NH

Former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown tells the Herald that he is unfazed by his erstwhile foe U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s Granite State prognosticating.

Warren gave Brown poor odds when asked about the rampant speculation that he is gearing up to challenge incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

“That’s kind of up to him,” Warren told the Herald yesterday when asked for her thoughts on a potential New Hampshire run by Brown, whom she beat in Massachusetts in 2012.

“I think that Jeanne Shaheen is a terrific senator, and I think she would be a very tough candidate for anyone to beat.”

Brown, in a brief statement to the Herald, said of Warren, “What she says has no bearing on any of my decisions.”

A poll released last week by Public Policy Polling showed Brown behind Shaheen, a one-term senator, by just 3 percentage points, 46 to 43 percent. That represents a shrinking of a 4-point gap between the two prior to the rollout of Obamacare, a program Shaheen has defended.

The week prior, the Senate Majority PAC, a group of Democratic strategists, launched $160,000 worth of attack ads portraying Brown as beholden to Wall Street interests and “shopping for a Senate seat in New Hampshire.”

National GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said Warren’s praise for Shaheen is reflective of a Democratic Party nervous about a number of Senate seats nationwide.

“Basically, it’s an understood memo to all Democrats to speak as glowingly as possible about those who are up in 2014 to make sure they can protect as many seats as possible,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at The Boston Herald

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McDonnell, Wife Charged With Corruption

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife were charged on Tuesday in federal court with illegally accepting large loans, luxury vacations and expensive gifts from a businessman and prominent political donor. 

A federal grand jury indicted the couple on 14 counts related to their decision to receive thousands of gifts and loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr., an executive at dietary supplement company Star Scientific. 

McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, could face prison sentences that amount to decades and fines of more than $1 million. 

Prosecutors accuse the McDonnells of receiving items from Williams, who in return got special treatment from the governor’s office to help his company.

McDonnell’s indictment could have ramifications for other Virginia Republicans as well. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie, the GOP front-runner to face Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), previously served as McDonnell’s campaign chairman and as a senior adviser during his transition into office in 2009. Many members of his campaign team also worked for McDonnell in the past.

“It plays exactly into the ‘fixer’ narrative Democrats are pushing — ‘Republicans aren’t as honest as they sell themselves to be.’ They’re going to try to say Gillespie is cut from the same cloth as Bob McDonnell,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who has worked on a number of Virginia races.

Read more from Rebecca Shabad and Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Iowa Republican Caucus To Test Conservatives In Senate Race

In one of the first skirmishes of 2014 between opposing wings of the Republican Party, conservatives and moderates vie on Tuesday for an early lead in the fight to nominate a candidate to run for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin.

Republicans need to win six seats to gain a majority in the U.S. Senate in congressional elections in November. If they retain control of the House of Representatives, they would gain considerable leverage in dealing with Democratic President Barack Obama.

But the party's path to victory is complicated by the conflict between the moderate "establishment" wing and the conservative Tea Party movement, with a number of conservative challengers running in primaries against moderate incumbent senators. Both sides favor lower taxes, spending cuts and smaller government, but while moderates are willing to compromise in many cases it is anathema for Tea Party-backed politicians to do so.

Rural Iowa's convoluted process of caucuses starts on Tuesday, with political analysts viewing them as an early test of the strength of the conservative movement, well ahead of the primary election battles that are set to take place in more than half a dozen states.

Iowa's process of nomination by caucus is unusual, but the threat of bruising primary contests undermining mainstream Republican candidates is a national issue.

"If the conservative base pulls too far to the right in a couple of states, it could cost the party," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"Iowa should definitely be in play, and Republicans could win if they choose someone electable and do it wisely," O'Connell said. "The problem is that rock-ribbed conservatives tend to do very well in primaries in Iowa, but they do not fare as well in general elections."

The most recent government figures show nearly 720,000 registered voters in Iowa are independents, with about 616,000 Republicans and 615,000 Democrats.

Republican strategist O'Connell said selecting a conservative Senate candidate could push independents toward the Democratic candidate.

That is also a risk in Georgia, where a number of candidates for retiring U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss' seat are trying to outdo each other as conservatives and may move to far to the right, O'Connell said.

Read more from Nick Carey at Reuters

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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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