Obama Administration Muddles Its Message Amid Islamic State Threat

U.S. critics are blasting President Barack Obama's muddled message over the nature of the Islamic State (IS) threat and how the United States plans to tackle the terrorist group.

Washington frets that the IS could carve out a safe haven in the Middle East to strike the U.S. homeland, just as al-Qaeda did in Afghanistan during the lead up to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington.

The IS militants have in recent months overrun vast swaths of northern Iraq and are also fighting on a second front in war-ravaged Syria in a bid to establish a state there. 

The Obama administration has had trouble keeping its message clear on how it will deal with the IS.

"The president's plan for IS does not inspire a great deal of confidence among Republicans, even though the Republican Party agrees with him on the need to destroy the terror group," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

"The president's rhetoric is all over the map. Is his job to defeat IS or contain it? Or to put U.S. troops on the ground or not?" he said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Nothing Will Stop Politicians From Riding The NFL Gravy Train

From big checks written by team owners and players to high-profile events at stadiums and even during games, the National Football League plays in tight formation with America’s political fundraising operatives.

That’s not likely to change, despite the flood of bad news for the league, ranging from accusations of racism, homophobia and domestic and child abuse.

“No absolutely not,” emailed one Republican fundraiser when asked if it was time to advise candidates against taking checks that could in someway be traced back to the NFL.

Still, the league’s image, once one of the best in professional sports, has taken a major beating, starting with the negative reaction some coaches and players had to the drafting of the first openly gay player last spring, to the ongoing controversy over Washington’s name and a host of domestic violence and child abuse complaints against marquee players. The NFL’s top brass have been playing defense since the first kickoff, and politicians, even those who’ve benefited from the league’s political activities, are starting to join the growing chorus of critics.

But the bad news isn’t likely to stop the close relationship between political fundraising and the NFL, observers said.

“It is the best fundraiser you can ever throw because it can’t miss,” said Ford O’Connell, a Washington-based Republican strategist. “The NFL has such wide appeal across party lines. What is female viewership even with this nonsense? It’s up 40%. Football is so ubiquitous in American life it’s hard to see how [a fundraiser] would be a hindrance unless you took money from one of these players.”

Read more from Evan McMorris-Santoro at BuzzFeed

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Ford O'Connell: Obama's ISIS Plan 'Doesn't Inspire Confidence'

Political analyst and GOP strategist Ford O'Connell appeared on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV on Wednesday to discuss criticism to President Obama's plan to battle ISIS.

Watch the video and read more at Newsmax.com

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ISIS Strategy Splits Rubio, Paul, Cruz

The threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has created an opportunity for three potential White House hopefuls in the Senate to grab the spotlight from Republican governors.

Governors have long enjoyed an advantage in presidential bids over lawmakers, but the emergence of ISIS could upend conventional wisdom.

Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) have been outspoken on waging military strikes against ISIS and arming and equipping moderate rebels in Syria. Through their committee assignments, each has foreign policy or national security expertise that stands out in a presidential primary field where few of the other leading contenders have established their bona fides on the international front.

Cruz stands between Rubio and Paul, leaning more toward the latter’s views. He has urged the president to bomb ISIS “back to the Stone Age” and called for a “directed, concerted, overwhelming campaign to take them out.”

But while he has employed more forceful rhetoric than Paul, the Texas senator says Obama must receive permission from Congress, and opposes arming Syrian rebels. Cruz, who sits on the Armed Services Committee, has warned that weapons sent to moderate factions could wind up in the hands of ISIS and other allies of al Qaeda.

“Ted Cruz is probably most in line with the Republican base in the sense he doesn’t want to have a discussion of Syria versus Iraq. He wants to dismantle and destroy ISIS. Period,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said. “But he wants Congress to vote on it.”

Cruz has taken a more aggressive role than Paul by pushing legislation to strip citizenship from people who fight with a hostile foreign government or a foreign terrorist organization.

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Hillary Clinton Returns To Iowa, Teases About 2016 White House Ambitions

Hillary Rodham Clinton parachuted into Iowa on Sunday, marking her first visit to the state that crippled her 2008 presidential campaign — sparking a feeding frenzy of speculation about what’s next for the former first lady.

Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, headlined retiring Sen. Tom Harkin’s 37th annual steak fry in a grassy field in Indianola, where they were tracked by a media mob and celebrated the Iowa lawmaker’s 40-year political career.

Along the way, Mrs. Clinton shook hands and posed for pictures with supporters, signed autographs and flipped steaks, all while ignoring questions about the 2016 campaign.

Instead, the 66-year-old former senator and secretary of state teased the crowd about her plans, telling them that her focus is on her future grandchild and “then, of course, there is that other thing.”

“If the fact that Hillary Clinton is at Tom Harkin’s Iowa steak fry doesn’t scream ‘2016’ in surround sound, I don’t know what does,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. “Let’s face the facts: No one goes to Iowa in September of 2014 without a future presidential run in mind, including Hillary, and this is her coming-out party.”

“The GOP should be shaking in their boots — regardless of the gains the party makes in 2014,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Were it not for Hillary in 2016, the Democrats would be locked out of the White House for the next 8 years no matter who the eventual GOP presidential nominee is.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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Rival US Senators Flake And Heinrich Film Survival Show

Two US senators from rival political parties are taking bipartisan co-operation to a new level, starring in a reality survival show filmed on a desert island. Will this shrewd media manoeuvre spur a gridlocked Congress to stop bickering and start taking action?

Rival Survival - premiering in the US on 29 October - will show Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Democratic Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico enduring six days and nights together on Eru in the Marshall Islands.

Used to navigating the metaphorical shark-infested waters of Washington DC politics, the two men will encounter real life predators as they work together to stave off hunger and thirst.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says President Barack Obama has shrewdly adopted this type of outside-the-box media approach, appearing on daytime and late-night talk shows and discussing many things other than politics.

"These days we live in an HBO, TMZ, ESPN society," he says of the entertainment television channel, a celebrity gossip website and a top sport media brand. "Politicians need to get outside of the political media echo chamber. You've got to go where the eyeballs are."

The Discovery Channel has plenty of eyeballs. Their survival shows - such as Naked and Afraid, where nude contestants battle the elements - draw big audiences.

But how can watching two grown men spear fishing together help what many consider to be a hopelessly gridlocked Congress?

"Right now, in a lot of ways, America is soured on both parties," O'Connell says. "The idea of being able to show them [working] together toward a common goal is a good thing overall."

It can also increase the pressure to co-operate, he says, and encourage more "team building exercises" across the political spectrum.

O'Connell also contends that, barring any major gaffes, the move can offer positive brand recognition for both parties.

"Talking about anything other than politics is generally a plus," he says. "The fact is, if you can survive... the Pacific Islands, then you can pretty much survive anything."

Read more from Debbie Siegelbaum at BBC.com

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Republicans Seize Momentum For Nov.

The general election kicks off today with establishment Republicans hoping to carry their primary momentum to November to retake the Senate, while Democrats are scrambling to thwart a GOP tide and dodge efforts to pin them to President Obama’s unpopularity.

“I think the stew is 
already made and it’s just coming to the slow boil,” said Larry J. Sabato of the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“The GOP is still favored to take over the Senate. They’re certainly going to keep the House, add a few seats,” Sabato said.

“For Democrats, they have to focus on local issues to have a shot,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. 
“Republicans have to capitalize on the national sentiment (that) the country is going in the wrong direction.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at The Boston Herald

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Same-sex Marriage Advocate Backs Republican In Senate race

The gay Oregon man who helped overturn the state's decade-old ban on same-sex marriage is featured in a campaign ad for a Republican Senate candidate -- and he now finds himself on the receiving end of some criticism from LGBT activists.

Ben West and his husband, Paul Rummell, became high-profile figures in Oregon's gay rights community this year when they challenged the state's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage and won.

Now West is backing Monica Wehby, the Republican nominee and same-sex marriage supporter who's challenging Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democratic incumbent with a long record of fighting for LGBT rights.

It wasn't too big of a surprise that Wehby is unveiling her support for same-sex marriage.

"This is Oregon. This is not Texas," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said, referring to the state's liberal tendencies. "I don't see a political risk."

It was, however, a big step for West and his husband to lend their names to Wehby's campaign.

But Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, trails Merkley by double digits. While her race has become more competitive than expected, political observers still rate it as a likely Democratic seat. Experts say she needed to make a splash to keep the pressure on.

"It seemed like a powerful, daring and bold move, but it also seems very wise given the landscape of Oregon," said O'Connell.

As polls continue to show increasing support for same-sex marriage, O'Connell argued Republicans will be paying close attention to the outcome in Oregon. "Depending on how this turns out for Wehby, this could be a blueprint for how Republicans could move forward," he said.

Read more from Ashley Killough at CNN.com

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GOP Counting On Scott Brown

With a decisive GOP pri-mary victory last night in New Hampshire, former Bay State U.S. Sen. Scott Brown came out swinging against Democratic incumbent Jeanne
Shaheen and President Obama in a race that is seen as a key battleground in 
the fight for control of the Senate.

Republicans are pinning their hopes on Brown to help tip the scales in D.C. and bring a key GOP voice to the Northeast.

“Scott Brown is important because he gives the Republicans more possibilities for netting seats,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “In New England we don’t have a House member. And other than Sen. Kelly Ayotte, we don’t have a presence.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at The Boston Herald

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Republican Groups Show Little Interest In Gillespie’s Senate Run In Virginia

Republicans have closed gaps in Senate races across the country, but Virginia — a swing state where the GOP should be more competitive — has proved to be the exception, with longtime party operative Ed Gillespie failing to make headway against freshman Sen. Mark R. Warner.

Republican operatives insist they have the right candidate and that the margin will close in the coming months in an environment favorable for the GOP, but outside groups have shown scant interest in backing Mr. Gillespie, who is being outspent, is still largely unknown by voters and has yet to really dent the popular Mr. Warner.

“I’m the tortoise. Three yards and a cloud of dust,” Mr. Gillespie said, chuckling. “I know where this race is in my gut. I know how vulnerable Senator Warner has become. And his record — I know that my policies resonate with the voters, and I just feel like the next 10 weeks or so are going to be very, very good.”

Election analysts agree there should be an opportunity for a Republican to make the race competitive.

“There is no way the way President Obama’s numbers are it’s a 20-point race, but the Warner campaign is doing a good job making sure nobody is paying attention to this race,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said.

Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times

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