Elizabeth Warren vs. Mitt Romney For Prez? It’s Not Impossible

With a wide open Republican field, and Hillary Clinton faltering on the Democratic side, the notion of a 2016 race that pits former Gov. Mitt Romney against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is emerging as a possibility, but both have a lot of work to do before they face off in a general election, according to pundits and pollsters.

“Warren is viable because of the gaffes Hillary has made on the stump,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican consultant, referring to criticism and mockery Clinton is now drawing for declaring she and President Clinton were “dead broke” and struggled when they left the White House — though they command six-figure speaking fees.

“But it takes more for Clinton to stumble than for Warren to pick up national name recognition,” O’Connell said. Of Romney, he said, “A lot of folks have to falter in order for Romney to see daylight, but as long as you can raise money like a holy roller on Sunday morning, you’re viable.”

Neither Romney nor Warren have officially stated their intentions to take the plunge. But Romney’s recent political moves — hosting a national GOP confab, polling well in New Hampshire and planning to endorse Scott Brown there — and Warren’s national fundraising and her autobiography have raised speculation that both are looking at 2016. It would be a long-shot third run for Romney, and an equally challenging neophyte run for Warren, experts said.

Read more from Bob McGovern at The Boston Herald

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U.S. Striking On Iraqi Terrorists Could Be Seen As Helping Iran: Experts

U.S. President Barack Obama is faced with a dilemma as Iraq spins out of control, and there are no good options.

At issue is what to do about the al-Qaida-inspired radicals surging through northern Iraq, wreaking havoc and reportedly beheading hundreds if not thousands of victims.

Obama has suggested using U.S. air power against the terrorists, but the move could cause the U.S. to be seen as supporting what many in Iraq see as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's pro-Iranian and anti-Sunni stance.

In essence, air strikes would make the Unite States appear to some as indirectly siding with long-time U.S. foe Iran, as many in Iraq perceive al-Maliki as taking orders from the Islamic republic, experts said.

Indeed, since Saddam Hussein was ousted as Iraqi president in 2003, Iran has been locked in a struggle for regional dominance against the United States and Saudi Arabia, and giving Tehran more of a foothold in Iraq is exactly what the White House does not want to do, experts said.

But at the same time, there is pressure on the White House to act, as many fear terrorists could use Iraq as a base to strike the Unite States, much the same as when al-Qaida used Afghanistan to plan the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks against New York and Washington, pundits and analysts said.

Adding to the complexity, however, is that among the mix of fighters on the ground are some anti-government tribal groups who may be fighting under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a splinter group of al-Qaida. The radical militants are continuing their advances after seizing swathes of five provinces in northern and western Iraq in the past two weeks.

Back in Washington, some Republicans are foaming at the mouths that Iraq has gotten to this point.

"Their concern is that Obama (was perceived to) drag his feet so long that it got to this point," Republican strategist Ford O' Connell told Xinhua.

Read more from at GlobalPost.com

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GOP Strategist: Cochran's Last-Minute Moves Won The Race

The gloves-off battle between Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, an establishment Republican, and his tea party challenger, Chris McDaniel, was reminiscent of a Hatfield and McCoys feud, with Cochran eking out the win.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell tells "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that Cochran, the underdog despite his 36-year incumbency, pulled out all the stops for a last-minute strategy change.

In a three-week time period, Cochran called on "every political marker that everyone ever owed him from Brett Favre, to donors, etc.," O’Connell said. "He had to fine-tune his message, and instead of pandering to the base, he decided to attack to the middle and basically tout incumbency in the fact that he'd bring home the pork."

The Cochran camp "increased the voter universe" via "an archaic rule that allows Democrats who did not vote in the Democratic primary to be able to vote in the runoff primary, even on the GOP side. So hats off to him. I have to say this was an amazing thing."

"I understand [McDaniel] thinks that this was underhanded, but politics is not a gentleman's game, and the rules were the rules."

Read more from Melissa Clyne at Newsmax.com

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The Tea Party's Alamo?

Establishment Republicans believe a successful night of primaries on Tuesday — in particular Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) surprising defeat of challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) in a runoff — effectively neutered the Tea Party for the foreseeable future.

Main Street spent $400,000 for Cochran during the primary fight, with $100,000 of that coming as a ground operation investment during the runoff period.

The Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a super PAC with ties to former Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour (R) all pitched in on the race, but were ultimately outspent.

Groups backing McDaniel outspent groups backing Cochran by more than $3 million, and Cochran had far fewer establishment-minded groups coming to his rescue than conservative groups that supported McDaniel.

Still, Cochran prevailed, even while running a decidedly unconservative runoff campaign that emphasized the federal money he’s brought back to the state as an appropriator and pitching for African American Democratic votes.

As GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who previously advised Barbour’s campaign, put it, the Mississippi runoff results should make conservatives rethink their whole strategy.

“Sen. Thad Cochran was essentially left for dead, and yet the Tea Party could not get the scalp on the mantle it so desperately needed. So, it’s back to the drawing board for grassroots conservatives,” he said.

Read more from Alexandra Jaffe at The Hill

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How Mississippi Democrats And GOP Bigwigs Helped Thad Cochran Win

In an improbable ending to a wild race, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran (R) of Mississippi defeated tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in a primary runoff vote – and did so with a critical assist from Democratic voters, many of them African-American.

Senator Cochran’s upset victory Tuesday dealt a major blow to the national tea party movement, which had appeared poised to knock out a longtime Senate Republican incumbent for the third election cycle in a row. Cochran is best known in the Senate as a quiet “workhorse,” skilled at directing federal dollars to Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation.  

Just three weeks ago, Cochran’s 42-year political career looked to be finished. He had come in second behind Mr. McDaniel, a state senator, in the June 3 primary. Because neither had won a majority, the race went to a runoff. That’s when the Cochran campaign and key outside groups rewrote the playbook, aided by emergency fundraising by top GOP establishment figures in Washington.

Mississippi Democrats have their own nominee for the November election, former Rep. Travis Childers. If McDaniel had won on Tuesday, political analysts saw the Democrats as having an outside chance of victory in November. But with Cochran on the ballot, the seat is now considered safe for Republicans.

In Mississippi, Republicans have their work cut out for them in reuniting a party riven by the divisive spectacle of the Cochran-McDaniel primary. Nationally, too, the GOP’s divisions are as stark as ever.

“The narrative coming out of Cochran’s victory will be that the ‘establishment strikes back,’ ” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “The duel between the Hatfields and McCoys of the Republican Party is far from settled.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Cochran Wins Mississippi Primary Runoff

Sen. Thad Cochran turned back a hard challenge from tea-party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Senate runoff race Tuesday, handing the party establishment arguably its biggest win of the 2014 primary season and boosting Republican hopes of flipping control of the Senate in the November election.

Mr. Cochran’s win was viewed as a huge blow to the national tea party groups and their allies, who invested heavily in the race in hopes of scoring their first big win of the primary season over a Senate Republican incumbent.

The Associated Press called the race for Mr. Cochran more than three hours after the polls closed. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Cochran held a 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent edge over Mr. McDaniel.

“It’s a group effort, it’s not a solo and so we all have a right to be proud of our state tonight,” Mr. Cochran told supporters in a brief appearance late Tuesday night.

Mr. McDaniel, meanwhile, refused to concede. He blamed the loss on “liberal Democrats” and slammed Mr. Cochran and his allies for “once again compromising,” “reaching across the aisle” and “abandoning the conservative movement.”

“The conservative tea party folks wanted a scalp on their mantle,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. “And in terms of marquee races, the Mississippi and Oklahoma U.S. Senate races were their last best opportunities this cycle. The narrative going forward will be ‘the establishment strikes back,’ but the duel between the Hatfields and McCoys of the Republican Party is far from settled.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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The Midterm Politics Of Fracking

Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has a challenging road to re-election this November. Polls show he’s locked into a tight contest against Republican Cory Gardner, and his party’s president has an approval rating in the low 40s.

Here’s another headache for Udall: hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking.”

Industry leaders praise the technique in which a mix of water, sand and chemical additives gets injected into underground rock formations. The high pressure applied in the process extracts trapped natural gas. Supporters call it a job creator that safely ensures America’s energy supply.

Environmental groups disagree, arguing that it contaminates the nation’s drinking water supply and creates air and noise pollution.

It is that debate – especially in a state like Colorado that has its share of energy interests as well as environmentalists – that has put Udall on the defensive. And his isn’t the only race in November where fracking could be an issue.

Indeed, the practice of fracking takes place in several states hosting competitive Senate contests, including Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell believes Republicans have the edge if fracking becomes an issue. “Republicans are going to frame it as energy and job security. What the Democrats are going to do is stress environmental concerns. Those usually play a stronger role along the coast and with a more diverse electorate that shows up in presidential elections.”

Read more from Lars Gesing at NBCNews.com

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Democrats Use Climate Change As Wedge Issue On Republicans

When President Obama stood before students in Southern California a week ago ridiculing those who deny climate science, he wasn't just road testing a new political strategy to a friendly audience. He was trying to drive a wedge between younger voters and the Republican Party.

Democrats are convinced that climate change is the new same-sex marriage, an issue that is moving irreversibly in their favor, especially among young people, women and independents, the voters who hold the keys to the White House in 2016.

Wedge issues are those in which one side believes strongly that it has the moral high ground. Just as Republicans held the upper hand on same-sex marriage in 2004, Democrats now see climate change as a way to drive their base voters to the polls while branding Republicans as antiscience and beholden to special interests.

Polls show large majorities of Americans favoring action on climate change, even if it causes electricity prices to rise. That's one reason Obama has moved ahead forcefully on a rule proposed this month by the Environmental Protection Agency to limit carbon dioxide pollution from the nation's power plants, the biggest step against climate change yet taken by any administration.

It would seem to be a risky bet in a midterm election year in which Democrats' control of the Senate rests on races in a handful of fossil-fuel-dependent states such as Louisiana, Alaska and West Virginia. Republicans clearly think so.

"Much of the Republicans' ability to capture the Senate goes through energy-producing states," said Republican analyst Ford O'Connell. He believes Obama is less worried about Senate Democrats than he is about burnishing his legacy.

After the rule was announced, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, ran robocalls in four states dependent on coal-fired electricity, saying the rule would raise energy costs.

Read more from Carolyn Lochhead at The San Francisco Chronicle

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Ford O'Connell: Next Five Months Are Trial Period for McCarthy

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell joined J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV Friday to discuss the win by Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California as the new House majority leader. 

"The next five months for Kevin McCarthy are really seen as a trial period because we don't know what's going to happen in the midterm elections," O'Connell said. 

"Do the Republicans take the Senate? If they take the Senate, he probably won't be challenged when we get to the next round of elections," he said. "But as of right now, he has to consolidate people's confidence in him. That's where he's trying to head right now."

Read more from Courtney Coren at Newsmax.com

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GOP Strategist O'Connell: Majority Leader Spot McCarthy's To Lose

The race to replace Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia as House majority leader after his primary loss is California Rep. Kevin McCarthy's to lose, says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. 

"McCarthy built up a heck of a lot of IOU's, and nobody really wants to expend their political capital between now and the midterms trying to secure that slot," O'Connell told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV on Wednesday. 

O'Connell explained that the decision by Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho, a tea party lawmaker, to make a bid for the leadership position is "absolutely" a protest run, but it's an uphill battle for the Idaho Republican because he doesn't "know the committee members all that well" or "his members of Congress."

The Republican strategist also said that the reason higher-profile House Republicans didn't throw their names in the hat is that "you cannot be in leadership and be a committee leader at the same time." That is why "a lot of folks like Paul Ryan and others" passed on the opportunity, O'Connell said. 

"This was really McCarthy's race to lose from the outset," he added. 

The race to replace McCarthy as House majority whip, being contested by Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, and Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois, has become a lot more competitive than the race for majority leader, O'Connell says. 

Read more from Courtney Coren at Newsmax.com

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