Senate Fight Could Come Down To Wire

The struggle for control of the U.S. Senate will be a fight to the finish, with analysts in both parties giving Democrats the edge, predicting GOP candidate Donald Trump will be a down-ticket drag — though hot-button issues could give Republicans a last-minute boost.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said, “It will have more to do with Trump than any other issue. We are in such a partisan era. The idea of split ticket voting is just not a reality.”

Yesterday the Cook Political Report projected that Democrats will pick up five to seven Senate seats — far more than the four needed for the party to reclaim control of the upper chamber if Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton wins the White House. If Trump wins, Democrats would need five Senate seat pickups to take control, because the vice president, serving as president of the Senate, is the body’s tie-breaker.

Read more from Kimberley Atkins at the Boston Herald

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Potential Pitfall For Hillary Clinton: Making Martha Coakley’s Mistake

Political operatives on both sides of the aisle say Hillary Clinton shouldn’t take her hefty lead in most polls over Donald Trump for granted, to avoid being blindsided by a late Trump surge and sharing Martha Coakley’s fate in her upset loss in the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Scott Brown.

Clinton is leading by as many as 12 percentage points in much of the recent polling, though several polls have Trump 1 to 2 points ahead. A map maintained by RealClearPolitics has Clinton with a 307-131 electoral vote lead over Trump, with 50 up for grabs. A candidate needs 270 to clinch.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said turnout is the wild card.

“The one saving grace Trump really has is the turnout,” he said.

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Fox News yesterday polls only account for reliable voters, “not really bringing in people who haven’t voted in a long time, the lapse voters or first-time voters who are truly enthusiastic about Donald Trump as an outsider trying to really shake up the system.”

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at the Boston Herald

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Rigged elections? Nasty woman? Trump's Scorched Earth Tactics Have Little Upside

Republican Donald Trump had one last chance at a nationally televised debate to reach out to the undecided voters he badly needs to keep his presidential campaign viable. 

He passed on the opportunity. Instead, he chose on Wednesday to stay with the strategy he has employed during recent weeks: Pump up his hard-core supporters and hope that's enough to win. 

He suggested he might not accept the election result if his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton wins on Nov. 8, called her a “nasty woman,” and repeated hard-line conservative positions on issues such as abortion and immigration. 

While that kind of rhetoric was catnip to his passionate, anti-establishment base, it is unlikely to have appealed to independent voters and women who have yet to choose a candidate.

“When you’re trailing in the polls, you don’t need a headline the next morning saying that you’re not going to accept the election results,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who supports Trump.

Read more from James Oliphant and Chris Kahn at Reuters

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Pundits React: Who Won The Final Debate, Clinton Or Trump?

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Donald Trump

What started out polite quickly turned into a Sin City slugfest.

Trump had his strongest debate performance, without question. He bested Clinton on the economy, foreign policy, open borders and WikiLeaks, and had her scrambling for cover on the Clinton Foundation.

Trump also did a good job of talking to #NeverTrumpers when it came to the Supreme Court, particularly on the subjects of partial birth abortion and the Second Amendment.

But when you are trailing in the polls as Trump is, what you don't need is a headline the day after the debate questioning whether you will accept the election results or a potential Clinton ad running on a loop in key battleground states featuring his "such a nasty woman" comment.

Those misguided political calculations risk overshadowing an otherwise great debate performance by Trump.

Bottom line: He needed more of a game-changer with 19 days to go until Election Day.

O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, an adjunct professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and is author of the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."

Read more at The Hill

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Rubio Warns Republicans Against WikiLeaks: ‘Tomorrow, It Could Be Us’

Democrats have found some unexpected Republican allies in contesting WikiLeaks’ embarrassing revelations about Hillary Clinton because of Russia’s suspected involvement in the email hacks.

Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican running for re-election in Florida, warned Wednesday against using the leaked emails as political ammunition against Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has seized on the WikiLeaks dump of more than 21,000 emails intercepted from the Clinton campaign as evidence that she is a double-dealing, corrupt politician.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell credited Mr. Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence, with positioning himself for the postelection political environment.

He said the threat of cyberattacks by Russia, China and others — as well as more WikiLeaks scandals — will not disappear.

“He’s trying to shepherd Republicans in the right direction because he knows what looks good today may not look good tomorrow,” said Mr. O’Connell. “Adam is also part of that sort of foreign policy crew, so he knows what is going on as well.”

Asked whether Mr. Schiff would be “singing the same tune” if the Republican candidate had been the target, Mr. O’Connell replied, “I highly doubt it.”

Read more from S.A. Miller and Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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U.S. Leads Airstrikes In Mosul Fight

The offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State fighters began yesterday with a volley of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery bombardments east of the terrorist-held Iraqi city — in a fight that observers say could affect the U.S. presidential election.

Obama administration sources warned that if Islamic State fighters are hard-pressed, they may retaliate against Western targets, which in turn could push voters toward GOP candidate Donald Trump, Politico reported.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP political consultant who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, cited a Gallup Poll that showed the issues of terrorism and security are currently fifth and sixth among voters’ top concerns.

“Compared to domestic issues, the electorate is not focused on what’s happening in Mosul,” he said. “I don’t see that helping or hurting Trump or Clinton. What this election is totally focused on is Trump’s fitness to be president and, ‘Is Hillary a crook?’”

But O’Connell said that could change if ISIS stages a retaliatory terrorist attack.

“If ISIS strikes back at us, it’s more likely to be beneficial to Trump than Clinton,” he said. “As you saw in the WikiLeaks, the Dems are trying to downplay terrorists or ISIS. That has been a concerted effort on their part.”

Read more from O’Ryan Johnson at the Boston Herald

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Republicans Warm Up To Assange

Republicans are making common cause with an old enemy: Julian Assange. 

In 2010, prominent figures in the GOP wanted the WikiLeaks founder jailed for releasing thousands of diplomatic cables leaked by former Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning.

Fast-forward to 2016, and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his supporters are extolling the release of thousands of emails stolen from the personal account of Democrat Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta.

The emails — around 10,000 of which have already been made public so far — have contained some embarrassing revelations for Clinton.

But the emails have ignited controversy. While some Republicans see the documents as fair game, others fret at the prospect of Russia tampering in the U.S. election.

“Presidential elections make strange bedfellows. I don’t see any risk at this stage because much of what’s being put out at this stage is not being refuted by the Clinton campaign,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Katie Bo Williams at The Hill

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North Carolina GOP Headquarters Attack An Act Of ‘Political Terrorism’

A county Republican headquarters in Hillsborough, N.C., was firebombed overnight Saturday, an attack that a party official called “political terrorism” — just the latest attack on the GOP in an increasingly ugly campaign season.

Police said a bottle of flammable liquid was thrown through the front window of the office in Hillsborough, a town in Orange County near Raleigh.

“Nazi Republicans get out of town or else” was spray painted on the side of an adjacent building.

In Orange County, home to the University of North Carolina in nearby Chapel Hill, Democrats and independents outnumber Republicans 5 to 1.

“This is exactly how nasty this election has become,” GOP operative Ford O’Connell said. “The Democrats want to make it look like if Donald Trump wins, apocalypse is upon us.”

He added the Democrats “aren’t exactly condemning it.”

O’Connell said voter fraud fears — often downplayed by Democrats — are a legitimate concern.

“We check less than 1 percent of all votes cast. All you need is 250,000 votes spread out over four or five states and that’s going to decide who the next president of the United States is.

“He’s spotlighting a real issue, while simultaneously trying to fire up his base because he’s had a rough three weeks,” O’Connell said about Trump.

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at the Boston Herald

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Trump Denies Touching Allegations: ‘These Events Never, Ever Happened’

In a move that has rocked the trajectory of the presidential campaign, a stunning number of women emerged over the last few days to tell stories of unwanted kisses and groping by Donald Trump, rushing to newspapers and television networks to raise more questions about whether the GOP nominee can serve as president.

Mr. Trump, struggling to make up ground against Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the polls, vehemently denied the allegations and lashed out repeatedly Thursday at news organizations for giving the women a forum. He demanded a retraction from The New York Times for a report of two accusers coming forward years later to detail their own encounters with the billionaire businessman — one on an airplane and the other inside Trump Tower.

Republican voters and down-ballot GOP candidates, meanwhile, continued to grapple with their damaged nominee — with the latest polling showing some slippage, though no wholesale abandonment.

“What Trump has decided to do … is he is going to basically go from the Queensberry rules of campaigning to full-on UFC with a scorched-earth policy where everyone, everything is in play,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“And their theory is that by Election Day 2016, their message is simple: Clinton is going to destroy America,” he said. “And Trump is the only guy who’s going to save and fix it.”

Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times

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Senate Republicans Up For Election Walk Fine Line With Donald Trump

Vulnerable Senate Republicans are deploying an array of tactics to stanch the down-ballot bleeding from Donald Trump’s caught-on-tape remarks about women, from vocal condemnation to pleas to forgive the real estate mogul and focus on Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses.

Mr. Trump’s personal feuds and strident views on immigration and trade have riled Republican leaders for months, though his lewd “hot mic” remarks from an “Access Hollywood” taping presented peril for Senate Republicans clinging to a 54-46 majority against a tough electoral map.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has taken a low-key approach by refusing to discuss the presidential race publicly, even after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, announced that he would no longer defend Mr. Trump or campaign with him.Yet nearly three-quarters of Republicans said party leaders should continue to back Mr. Trump, according to a Politico/Morning Consult poll taken in the immediate aftermath of the leaked tape, and some have taken stances that would appear contradictory.

While each Republican senator forges his or her own path — stick with Mr. Trump or write in someone else — no one is telling voters what to do.

“That would really be a recipe for disaster, to say, ‘Don’t vote against Trump,’” said Republican Party strategist Ford O’Connell, who argued that less than 10 percent of battleground-state voters would reject Mr. Trump but support a Republican senator down the ballot. “Rank-and-file voters aren’t saying, ‘Let’s save the Senate’ like it’s the Alamo.”

Though in this crazy election cycle, Mr. O’Connell said, silence is “probably the best way to go.”

Read more from Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times

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