Just minutes before an explosive vote on whether climate change is real, Republicans received a surprising message from Sen. James Inhofe.
The Oklahoma Republican, derided by the left as Congress’s leading “denier” of climate science, had decided the night before, while huddled in his office with staffers, that he would support an amendment from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) stating, “climate change is real and not a hoax.”
The result of the unlikely Inhofe-Whitehouse pairing was an overwhelming 98-1 Senate vote endorsing the view that climate change is “not a hoax,” foiling the first attempt by Democrats to portray the Republican Party as anti-science ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
Later that day, Republicans blocked two amendments stating that human beings contribute to climate change, giving ammunition to Democrats who say the GOP is standing in the way of efforts to reduce carbon emissions and halt the warming of the planet.
But it was the first vote of the day that became the talk of Washington.
“Democrats are going to continue to play games with them until they are unified in approach. Sen. Schatz and others were trying to see how many different ways to chip away at the GOP position,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.
“Democrats are trolling Republicans extremely hard on this issue.”
By voting for Whitehouse’s amendment, O’Connell added, “Republicans were making sure they don’t handcuff a 2016 GOP nominee.”
Read more from Laura Barron-Lopez at The Hill
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) was the first Republican to officially announce he was running for president in 2016, throwing his hat in the ring in September 2013 in New Hampshire.
Here are what five leading political pundits have said about the long-shot campaign of the 12-term congressman and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful.
3. In an August 2013 article on The Hill, Republican political operative Ford O’Connell suggested King may be using his presidential overtures to push his party in adopting a stronger commitment to national security and national defense rather than making a serious run at the nomination.
“It seems that he’s far more wedded to the GOP emphasis on national defense than he is to actual ambitions of sitting in the White House,” O’Connell said. “Internally he may be testing the waters, but he knows in the back of his mind that he has a better chance of winning the Powerball jackpot this year before he becomes president of the United States. And I think part of it is that he’s getting coverage because we’re a leaderless party with no true front-runner.”
Read more from Jeff Smith at Newsmax.com
Mitt Romney’s decision to sit out the next presidential race moves one of the GOP’s biggest anchors to the past, and the party’s fresh faced hopefuls are already scrambling to take advantage.
“People want new fresh leadership with big, bold, ideas, and the courage to act on them,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “And if we are going to take on a name from the past, which is likely be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, I think, for the party, we need a name from the future.”
GOP analysts say the early shakeup could help Jeb Bush court some of Mr. Romney’s supporters from 2012, but say it also could make it tougher for Mr. Bush, whose famous family makes him the only remaining candidate with deep ties to the Republican Party’s past — a history many primary voters appear eager to forget.
“Outside of Bush it is going to be harder for old blood to break through,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. “And even in Jeb’s case he has to be Jeb, not Bush. GOP voters are looking for something new to rally around particularly with Hillary waiting in the wings.”
Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times
The Republican ticket is anybody's game at this early stage in the lead up to the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, though the 2012 Republican candidate Mitt Romney has announced not to run again.
After Romney's announcement of his decision on Friday, the Republican stage is still full with candidates who could face off in a tight competition to clinch the party's nomination for the 2016 race and then fight to take back the White House.
There is no clear front runner so far in the Republican camp, and new candidates could emerge to the surprise of analysts, Washington watchers and pundits.
Certainly, Republicans need a candidate with real star power to match the international celebrity of former first lady and Obama administration's former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who is Democrats' likely nominee and is considered a formidable opponent.
While much could change before election season comes into full swing, Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that right now there are three candidates who could stand up to Clinton's international fame: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, also younger brother of former President George W. Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
According to O'Connell, Rubio will be helped by the fact that he has made his own way in the world and will not be viewed as an elitist. He had attended community college, before graduating from a law school and racking up a hefty amount of student loans in the process, which he worked to pay off later.
Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua
Mitt Romney’s exit on Friday from the 2016 GOP presidential field could be several other possible candidates’ gain.
The 2012 nominee’s decision spares Republicans a heavyweight fight between Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush for donors and operatives.
But Romney’s departure also resonates further down the ladder, giving new life to candidates that had been stuck in the shadows.
Based on interviews with several GOP strategists, these are candidates ranked in the strongest positions to win the nomination with just a year to go until the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, 2016.
“The next key date for Bush will be July when his fundraising numbers come out,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “We’ll see how close he gets to his goal of raising $100 million.”
Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill
Marijuana is shaping up to be the new gay marriage of GOP politics — most Republicans would rather not talk about it, except to punt to the states.
But when it comes to the 2016 presidential race, a series of legalization ballot initiatives — and a certain outspoken Kentucky senator — could make it harder for the Republican field to avoid the conversation.
When asked to articulate their positions on recreational marijuana, several potential GOP 2016 candidates have tried to strike a tricky balance: stress the downsides of pot use and the upsides of states’ rights. Some have indicated their openness to decriminalizing pot, at least in their state, but none favors outright legalization.
Strategists argue that Paul’s reluctance to embrace full legalization and insistence on warning about the dangers of marijuana use indicate he doesn’t want to anger a key segment of the GOP base.
“Part of the reason why Paul finds himself in this conundrum is the amount of older voters we have in the Republican primary,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, noting that Paul’s libertarian-leaning foreign policy stances already have Republican voters over 50 eying him warily.
Read more from Jonathan Topaz at Politico
Mike Huckabee, perhaps better than any other presidential contender, demonstrates the difficulties Florida presents for White House candidates.
When the former Arkansas governor returns to Sarasota on Saturday, he will be revisiting the site where his presidential aspirations were dashed in 2008 because of Florida’s complexities.
While the candidates spend months in the early, smaller primary states engaging in the retail politics of pancake breakfasts and county fairs, Florida presents distinct problems requiring a vast, developed campaign network and huge sums to advertise on the air.
“It’s a state where you just can’t succeed doing that same retail politicking,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign.
In other words, the folksy charm and sense of humor Huckabee flashed in Iowa and New Hampshire never had an avenue in Florida.
Veteran Florida political consultant Jamie Miller said that at minimum, a primary challenger needs 15 to 20 professional staffers and more than $5 million to compete in this state’s critical election, expected to be in early March in 2016.
Read more from Jeremy Wallace at The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Mitt Romney is no longer an obstacle in Governor Christie’s pursuit of the Republican nomination for president.
But Paul Fishman, New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, still remains in his path.
By most accounts, Romney’s announcement on Friday that he will not seek the GOP nomination in 2016 could be a help to Christie if he decides to take the plunge. Those mainstream donors loyal to Romney are now up for grabs for New Jersey’s governor — as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush — to court and collect.
But Fishman, the United States attorney for New Jersey, could tip the balance as he winds up his yearlong criminal investigation of the George Washington Bridge lane-closing scandal.
But Christie allies expect Republicans who are supportive of the governor to shrug off the bridge issue, even with indictments. Christie’s aggressive offensive over the past year has fostered the impression outside of New Jersey that he has already been exonerated or that Democrats have been conducting a political witch hunt.
“As long as it doesn’t pin the tail on him, he’s going to be fine,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Obviously everyone else is going to take issue, ‘Well, you can’t control your staff.’ He can respond, ‘Are you electing them or are you electing me?’"
Read more from Charles Stile at NorthJersey.com
Mitt Romney shook up the 2016 GOP field on Friday with his announcement that he won’t be seeking the presidency for a third time.
In a call with supporters early on Friday, the 2012 nominee said it’s time to “give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.”
Potential GOP candidates were respectful in their responses to the former Massachusetts governor’s decision, which came after a surprising three week flirtation with another run.
But the contenders also know that the early exit of a formidable fundraiser with a deep political network bolsters their chances of winning the party’s nomination.
Republican strategists say Bush is the biggest beneficiary — the two appeared to be gearing up for a heavyweight fight for donors, top-level political operatives and the right to claim the party’s establishment mantle.
GOP strategists say that after Bush, Romney’s exit buoys the potential candidacies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Sen. Marco Rubio the most.
GOP strategists say Walker falls into the party’s sweet spot – they believe he can pull support from both the establishment and the Tea Party wing as a candidate that can “drive in both lanes,” as Republican consultant Ford O’Connell put it.
Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appears to be preparing for a likely White House run by embracing issues that are not traditional conservative priorities -- including man-made climate change.
The libertarian joined 14 other GOP senators last week in voting for an amendment by Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) offered to the Keystone XL oil pipeline bill that declared that man-made emissions contribute to warming. But while many of the other Republicans who backed the language were either climate moderates or up for re-election in swing states in 2016 -- or both -- Paul is neither. He is defending his seat next year in deep-red Kentucky, where he can point to a solid history of anti-regulatory rhetoric and bids he led to kill U.S. EPA rules.
Paul declined requests to explain his vote on Hoeven's amendment, but political observers say he seems to be aiming beyond Kentucky.
Political analyst and Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said Republicans would stand firm on policy while trying not to let Democrats nail them down on climate science.
"What Republicans all agree on is that they don't want to see so many job-killing regulations and taxes, and they want to maintain flexibility so that they can come to a consensus [on science] behind the scenes without handcuffing the 2016 nominee," he said.
Read more from Jean Chemnick at E&E