PAC Forms To Draft Mitt Romney Into 2016 Race For President

A “Ready for Romney” political action committee announced its formation over the weekend, paving the way should Mitt Romney make another bid for president — but even some of the two-time candidate’s advisers don’t know who’s behind it.

The committee is the latest entry in what’s become a crowded field of PAC stalking horses, joining ones that have formed to boost former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Dr. Ben Carson.

But the unauthorized nature of Ready for Romney underscores the murky nature of the situation, where PACs can form to recruit candidates even if they say they don’t have an interest in running.

The calls for Mr. Romney to take a third stab at the presidency have been picking up in some GOP circles, boosted by polls that show the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 GOP presidential nominee is running in front of the field of likely contenders.

Political analysts say some of the pro-candidate committees are unauthorized efforts ostensibly to recruit someone into the race, while others appear to have the blessing of a potential candidate, including Ready for Hillary and RAND PAC.

“Some of them are communication apparatus[es] that serve as a placeholder for an actual campaign,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist.

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times 

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Ted Cruz Will Bank On The Base

To hell with the independents. That’s not usually the animating principle of a presidential campaign, but for Ted Cruz’s, it just might be.

His strategists aren’t planning to make a big play for so-called independent voters in the general election if Cruz wins the Republican nomination. According to several of the senator’s top advisers, Cruz sees a path to victory that relies instead on increasing conservative turnout; attracting votes from groups — including Jews, Hispanics, and Millennials — that have tended to favor Democrats; and, in the words of one Cruz strategist, “not getting killed with independents.”

Twenty-three months from the presidential election, it seems all but a given that the freshman senator, who has been in Congress just two years, will mount a bid for the White House. “He’s looking at the race very seriously,” says a senior adviser, who confirms that Cruz’s campaign headquarters would be based in Houston. Cruz strategists see a way to win both the nomination and the general election.

The strategy has its critics. Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center calls it “fantasy.” The Republican base, he says, simply isn’t large enough to win an election nationally, and the Republican nominee must “energize establishment Republicans and people who don’t call themselves conservatives.”

“The key for [Cruz] is to figure out how not to lose his authenticity with the Republican base while expanding his reach,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Eliana Johnson at National Review Online

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Hillary Clinton Likely To Come Out Tough On Foreign Policy In 2016 Elections

Despite recent statements that are softer than usual, Hillary Clinton -- always seen on the hawkish side of the Democratic Party -- is expected to come out strong on foreign policy once her campaign for the presidency gets fully underway.

At a recent foreign policy conference, the former U.S. secretary of state, who is widely predicted to be Democrats' nominee for presidential candidate in 2016, threw a bone to her liberal base, saying the U.S. should show "respect even for one's enemies, trying to understand and, insofar as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view."

That led critics to upbraid the likely candidate as living on another planet and showing blatant naivete in the face of enemies spurred on by radical Islamist ideology.

But Clinton's lighter approach may not last long, as foreign policy will stand at the forefront of candidates' issues once the campaign season gets into full swing.

"I think her problem thus far is that she has not figured out how to really crystallize the vision not only for domestic policy, but for foreign policy as well," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

Read more at Xinhua

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Ben Carson To Visit Israel In Possible Precursor To 2016 White House Bid

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who polls near the top of the potential 2016 GOP presidential field, will take a trip to Israel next week, checking off one of several must-do boxes for Republicans pondering a run at the White House.

Such trips are frequently used as a way for potential candidates to burnish their foreign policy credentials and reaffirm support for the key U.S. ally in the Middle East.

“If you’re not going to start in North America, there’s no better place to start” than Israel, said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “We need someone who can have that statesmanlike stature when pitted against Hillary Clinton.”

Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times

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Gruber's Misstep Worries Democrats Long-Term

Ford O'Connell and Joe Lestingi debate over Jonathan Gruber's role.

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CIA Report Another Attempt By Democrats To Attack Bush?

Ford O'Connell and Joe Lestingi on Senator Feinstein releasing report.

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Chris Christie: Water Under The Bridge?

Republicans are confident that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” problems are behind him, and they say he’s weathered a storm that would make him an even more formidable 2016 GOP presidential candidate.

An investigation by New Jersey lawmakers released on Monday didn’t turn up any evidence directly linking the GOP governor to a politically motivated scheme to close traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge last year. 

In addition, GOP observers say Democrats’ eagerness to sink Christie has helped him burnish a reputation among conservatives as the candidate whom liberals fear most against Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“I have never seen a candidate that the Democrats wanted to sweep under the rug faster than Christie,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Now he can say, ‘I’m the one Democrats are trying to trash. Why do you think they’re so afraid of me?’ ” 

That doesn’t mean the political risks of the scandal are completely gone, though.

“Democrats are going to dig to China to turn up everything they can on this,” O’Connell said.

“If they’re just saying he couldn’t control his staff, that’s a far less sexy story,” O’Connell said.

“One of his biggest challenges will be to not allow this ‘bullying’ meme to catch hold,” O’Connell said. “Politics is about perception, not reality, so he can’t let this stick.”

Of course, all of this is moot if another bombshell drops.

“But assuming another shoe doesn’t fall … if this is all Democrats can come up with, then I like his chances,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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For 2016, Who Will Jump In First?

“I’m in.”

That’s the phrase the political world is waiting to hear from the dozens of Republicans and some Democrats who are considering a run for the White House in 2016.

The starting gun for what could be the most competitive presidential primary in recent memory will be fired once a big-name candidate announces, and political insiders are placing their bets on who will be first out of the gate.

On the Republican side, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are said to be looking at the calendar — and over their shoulders — in preparation for announcements this spring.

Other GOP contenders, such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, are circling the wagons. And a decision is expected soon from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, which would ripple across the Republican field whether he gets in or stays out of the race.

For Democrats, the spotlight is fixed squarely on former secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ford O’Connell, an alumnus of McCain’s 2008 campaign, predicted the announcements might not start to come until the spring, after the April 15 quarterly filing deadline for fundraising.

That would be a major change from 2008, when the stampede of candidates began right after Christmas.

“It’s chaotic right now because these calculations are so complex, and there is no front-runner for the first time in 50 years,” O’Connell said. “Last time, everyone knew their target was Mitt Romney. It was Mitt Romney-or-blank. Now, it could be anyone.”

Read more from Elise Viebeck at The Hill

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Liberals Ramp Up For State-By-State Push In 2016

Progressives, frustrated at gridlock in Washington and at the state level, are planning a major ballot-initiative push across the country as they bank on a likely favorable electorate in 2016.

Groups supporting marijuana legalization, background checks on firearms and raising the minimum wage told POLITICO to expect a larger slate of ballot propositions in 2016 than during the past several election cycles.

In particular, organizations are confident that after achieving success on progressive ballot initiatives with an older and more conservative bloc of voters in 2014, the younger and more liberal electorate expected to turn out in the upcoming presidential contest will produce some major triumphs.

It’s widely expected that referendums on gun control, marijuana legalization and economic fairness issues, including paid sick leave and equal pay, will outnumber those in 2012, a sign that liberals are embracing a state-based model that allows them to circumvent legislatures and Congress.

Conservatives, though, are taking notice, and vowing to blunt the momentum, potentially with competing ballot propositions.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said conservatives are “keeping an eye on” progressive successes at the ballot and that they are “concerned” about a broader campaign encroaching upon conservative states.

“There is concern that it could move to more traditionally conservative states, and that’s where they’re going to try to stop it,” he said.

Read more from Jonathan Topaz at Politico

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RNC Cap On 2016 Debates Could Give Rise To ‘New Round Of Sideshows’

The Republican National Committee’s push to limit the number of debates in the 2016 presidential primary could end up creating an arms race of sorts, with groups denied the chance to hold “official” debates instead hosting candidate forums that would serve much the same purpose.

Even as groups ponder how to handle the RNC’s new dictate, which will be formalized in the coming weeks, potential candidates say they’re open to participating in forums outside of the officially sanctioned debates, saying they are crucial to giving voters the chance to test their would-be nominees.

Some Republicans, especially in the party’s senior ranks, though, felt there were too many debates — intraparty clashes that diluted the party’s message and weakened eventual nominee Mitt Romney’s hand as he headed into the general election against President Obama.

The RNC is pushing to limit the number of debates.

Some RNC members said the challenge now will be for the party to figure out what constitutes an unsanctioned debate.

“As much as the Republican Party, rightfully so, wants to control the debates, the reality is that the networks have the upper hand, because a lot of candidates will want to boost up their name ID and be in everybody’s living rooms,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. “By trying to basically control the debate process, they could be giving rise to a new round of sideshows.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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