Six Ways The GOP Can Make The Massachusetts Senate Race Competitive

The Republican establishment breathed a sigh of relief when Boston businessman Gabriel Gomez won Tuesday's GOP primary in the Massachusetts special election Senate race, believing he represents the party's best chance at an unlikely pick-up in liberal Massachusetts.

Gomez, a Hispanic former Navy SEAL investment firm executive, has the type of outsider credibility and centrist leanings the GOP hopes will play well against 18-term Rep. Edward Markey, the Democratic nominee. 

Here are six things that Gomez needs to pull off an upset: 

2. Outside Republican groups must spend heavily in the race. 

Republicans agree that Gomez won’t have a chance if outside groups don’t invest heavily in the race, but a number of strategists for groups that typically get involved say they’re holding their fire until polling on the race comes in.

While Republicans agree Gomez is a strong candidate, the groups are wary of investing in a lost cause, and are looking for evidence that the climate in Massachusetts could be favorable for a Republican.

But that early money could make all the difference as Gomez seeks to define himself and Markey in the early days of the campaign. Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said an early investment could cause Democrats to spend money on what they consider to be a safe seat.

“Spending now to find out if you can get a boost is better than waiting to see if the boost can come around. Frontloading the money, and forcing Democrats to spend there, might be a little bit smarter,” he said.

Read more from Alexandra Jaffe at The Hill

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President's Relationship With GOP Congressional Leaders At New Low

President Obama's relationship with Republican leaders in Congress has hit a new low.

The president's personal jab at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over the weekend came as his relationship with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has soured over the last year.

“I’m not so sure the president was joking; to some extent, I think it was a fair assessment when [Obama said], ‘You have a drink with Mitch McConnell, no you.' It’s gotten to that point, Capitol Hill is a pretty entrenched place and neither the president nor congressional Republicans have the power to prevail on any issue,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said.

Read more from Molly Hooper at The Hill

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Favorite Son? Marco Rubio Poised To Challenge Dems In 2016

Whether or not his bipartisan immigration reform effort fails, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has primed himself for crossover appeal. In the face of a Republican Party that has been labeled as full of old, white, rich men, the young, charismatic politician whose parents emigrated from Cuba already presented a refreshing alternative. But now he can add "deal-maker" and "maverick" to his resume – something that will further confound Democrats in a potential 2016 match-up, experts say.

Rubio, long seen as a potential GOP presidential candidate, has spent serious political capital by crafting and attempting to sell to conservative media an immigration reform package that calls for ramped up border security, but also allows a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

"Basically it makes his quest for the nomination more difficult, but definitely makes him a much more attractive candidate," says Ford O'Connell, a Republican political strategist who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008. "Besides the security, the economics of it, the pathway to citizenship makes it clear that he understands the GOP is running out of white voters."

Read more from Rebekah Metzler at U.S. News & World Report

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Democrats Try To Shift Budget Onus To GOP

After several years of complaining that Congress didn't have a budget, Republicans are now the ones holding up the 2014 budget process.

Both the GOP-led House and Democrat-controlled Senate have passed plans, but House Speaker John A. Boehner seems in no hurry to create the official conference committee that would hammer out differences.

Democrats, tired of taking fire for their budget record, are on the offensive, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid trying to jump-start final budget negotiations Tuesday. He took to the Senate floor and made a motion to formally set up the Senate budget negotiating team, but the GOP blocked it.

But top Republicans in both chambers said they wanted to hold informal talks first to see what kind of final budget deal is possible.

GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said the path to a so-called grand bargain is narrow, but possible, and Mr. Obama got a discussion started with a plan to reduce entitlement spending by $800 billion over 10 years.

"But he is fooling himself if he thinks that will get Republicans to raise more revenues," Mr. O'Connell said. "If the president can get Democrats to get more serious about entitlement reform — which doesn't seem likely right now — then I think you will see Republicans put revenue on the table and a deal will get done. But until then, we will continue to careen from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis."

Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times

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Rubio Takes Heat On Immigration Plan

US. Sen. Marco Rubio rode a Tea Party wave to victory in 2010 and has became a leading voice for the conservative movement over the last two years.

But you would not know either by the treatment he has received since releasing details of a comprehensive immigration reform plan.

Just in the last week, TeaParty.Org called it the "Amnesty Bill," and talk radio star Rush Limbaugh said he would never understand Rubio's plan.

Even Heritage Foundation leader and former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, one of Rubio's mentors, said the ideas in the bill were a violation of the rule of law.

The roughest reception had to come from author and FOX News contributor Ann Coulter, who said Rubio was telling the "Mount Vesuvius of lies about his immigration bill."

The big public relations campaign shows how serious Rubio really is about the issue, said Ford O'Connell, a veteran GOP strategist based in Virginia. He said Rubio is showing he is "all in on immigration."

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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Immigration Reform Trumps Gun Control (And Mark Sanford's Comeback Bid)

Isn't it interesting how any time an idea from the left fails in Congress, it's not because lawmakers honored the will of the people or did what was best for the country but because some outside nefarious force bought the votes? So it was on Wednesday, when President Obama took to the Rose Garden to denounce senators who opposed the gun-control package as in the pay of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

NRA, Gun Owners of America and others certainly have some influence on gun legislation, but the left needs to admit much more went into the decision-making in the Senate. The wise lawmaker rarely gets too far ahead of constituents and never gets too far ahead at the ballot box. For the measures to have prevailed, at least nine Republicans would've had to get substantially ahead of constituents and the ballot box, and a handful of Democrats involved in what should be tight elections in 2014 would've had to follow suit. It simply wasn't going to happen.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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How Liberal Anger At Obama Budget Helps The president, Democrats

No doubt about it, liberal activists are angry with President Obama over his budget proposal, which includes cost-saving changes to Social Security and Medicare – two of the biggest pillars of the nation’s social safety net.  

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a usually reliable ally of the president, assailed the proposal Wednesday as “wrong and indefensible.” The day before, progressives delivered 2 million petition signatures to the White House denouncing the plan. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, a self-described Democratic Socialist, accompanied the group, megaphone in hand.

“We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, disabled vets, the sick, the women, or the children,” Senator Sanders said.

“Obama is cleverly using it as a bargaining chip to give himself wiggle room on other key agenda items like gun control and immigration reform, while still leaving open the minuscule possibility of reaching a budget grand bargain,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Mitch McConnell's Tape And The 2014 Senate Landscape

Was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the target of a malicious bugging operation by left-wing conspirators seeking to derail his 2014 re-election bid? We can leave that to the FBI to determine.

But what we do know is McConnell's poll numbers are not good, and stories of nefarious Nixon-esque buggings likely won't do much to bolster his already sizeable re-election war chest. No Democrat has entered the race – performer Ashley Judd backed out after a rough meeting with former governor and still party stalwart Wendell Ford – but a credible opponent could pose a real challenge.

In The Not-So-Sanguine Category …

If McConnell prevails, it could be a clean sweep for Republicans in defending the 14 seats that will come up in 2014. Only Susan Collins in Maine and the eventual Republican nominee in Georgia are in any danger, and Collins has not drawn a credible Democratic opponent as yet.

The big question will be whether Republicans can net six Democratic seats and regain control of the upper chamber. Democrats will be defending 21 seats next year, and several are up for grabs. Rep. Shelly Moore-Capito, a Republican from a well-known state political dynasty, has raced out to a big lead in the Mountain State. The retiring Tim Johnson's seat in South Dakota could also easily flip.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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Obama Makes Concession To Republicans Amid Ongoing Budget War

U.S. President Barack Obama made a major concession to Republicans Wednesday by calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare during an ongoing budget battle in Congress.

Signaling a will to compromise, Obama said his new budget plan would cut Social Security, one of the government's big-ticket spending items, by 100 billion U.S. dollars or more over the next decade.

"(The proposal) challenges the long-held Democratic notion that entitlements are sacrosanct," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua in an interview Wednesday.

"The fact that the president is catching heat from both sides is relatively a good sign," he said, adding that Obama is seeking middle ground between budgets put forth by both parties.

"He's just not there yet," O'Connell said.

"He's trying to prep his own party for that (cuts in spending) but at the same time he's hitting the Republicans pretty hard on the revenue side," he added.

For their part, if Republicans want to steer the president more in their direction, they will have to convince Obama of their belief that smart deficit reduction will lead to private sector job growth and a stronger dollar, O'Connell said.

But Obama's concessions may not be enough to win over Republicans, as the budget proposal also contains tax increases on upper earners, something GOP lawmakers are dead set against. Some analysts and media predict the bill will be dead on arrival.

Read more at the Global Post

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Supporting Gay Marriage Now is Hardly Heroic

You know politicians. It can't be just a stand; it has to be a courageous stand.

That explains the recent rush, particularly among Democrats in the Senate, to get to the new correct side of the same-sex marriage issue.

Same-sex marriage is going to happen. It's already legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, and the Supreme Court has before it two cases that could allow it to expand marriage for gays nationwide. Even if the Court doesn't rule accordingly, Nate Silver says his opinion data projects it will be legal in 32 states by 2016 and 44 by 2020.

So, who among the late converts do we take seriously? And what are we to make of the rest? 

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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