It’s the question that might explain, so far, President Obama’s conspicuously calibrated comments, the public cautiousness of many Congressional leaders and why the presumptive Democratic nominee for 2016, Hillary Clinton, hasn’t said anything to date: Will Ferguson, along with the myriad of complex issues surrounding it, have an impact on the midterm elections?
The answer to that is still a bit foggy. But it doesn’t go unnoticed that the rather tight Congressional midterm elections are now just two months away, with the fate of Democratic control of the Senate hanging in the balance.
What is apparent is that observers, strategists and pundits are beginning to ask the question, which means it’s being factored into a crisp calculus on heated Senate races. The discussion is there, polls are being taken and one could take a bird’s-eye view of the present political landscape and find indications that what’s happened on the ground in Ferguson is influencing what will take shape in 10 weeks.
But the question about how the Ferguson situation influences voters in November may have more to do with the reaction of the African-American electorate to what are perceived as President Obama’s lukewarm response to the issue than with how Caucasian voters view the president. Some observers wonder if disappointment at the absence of a much stronger, personal reflection from the president will somehow depress Black voter turnout when it’s needed the most.
“It’s about whether or not Black voters are satisfied with his response,” said CivicForum PAC founder Ford O’Connell. “There is no defining issue in 2014. This is a base election. But will this situation tamp down the Black vote in 2014?”
Read more from Charles Ellison at The Philadelphia Tribune
Backed by U.S. air power, Kurdish forces are making gains in Iraq against the Islamic State terrorist group, but the same Islamic radicals are on the march in neighboring Syria.
That poses a major problem for the United States, which aims to keep terrorism in check a decade after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, and Washington is nervously eyeing moves by the Islamic State, which has in recent months overrun vast swathes of territory in northern Iraq.
The militants' territorial gains have Washington worried that its ultimate nightmare could come true -- that the group could eventually carve out a haven in Iraq or Syria and use it as a staging ground for attacks against the United States, much like al- Qaida did in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama's critics have blasted him for putting the Islamic State problem on the backburner until it blew up in his face.
Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that while the White House largely ignored the problem over the last year, the president is now engaged in the issue.
He said the president is looking at the group "in a very serious way."
"Obviously he ignored this for a long time, but when you've got defense secretaries out there saying 'my gosh, this is far worse than we ever imagined,'" the issue became difficult to ignore, he said.
Still, the current administration is unlikely to engage much beyond limited airstrikes, as Obama is concerned about his legacy and wants to be known as the president who ended the war in Iraq, he added.
Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua
Craig McDonald, founder and director of Texans for Public Justice, the group that made the initial charges that led to the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, tells Newsmax TV's "America's Forum" that Perry's "conduct" was the reason for the indictment.
Republican political strategist Ford O'Connell countered that Perry's actions were "constitutionally legal" under state law as the two debated on Tuesday the charges against Perry and other Republicans.
Watch the video and read more at Newsmax.com
Spoiler alert: As both Democrats Republicans calculate their odds of a Senate majority, several third party candidates are complicating their math.
Popular dissatisfaction with both parties — and bitter campaigns that are driving up candidates’ negatives on both sides — have helped boost third-party candidates in a number of states into the high single digits.
It’s not that common that third-party candidates can sway an election, and they often fare much better in early polls than on election day as “protest voters” come home to the major parties or stay home.
But there are precedents.
National Democrats quietly sent mailers boosting Montana Libertarian Senate candidate Dan Cox in 2012. He pulled nearly seven percent of the vote as Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) defeated Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) by just four points.
Voters in Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial election were disgusted with both major-party candidates, especially with Republican Ken Cuccinelli. As a result, libertarian Robert Sarvis took seven percent of the vote, and now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) won by less than three points.
Then-Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s decision to bolt from the GOP and run as an independent Senate candidate in 2010 badly divided the state’s Democrats, giving now-Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) an easy path to victory.
It’s unclear whether any third-party candidates will throw an election one direction or the other this cycle. But strategists in both parties are keeping an eye on them.
“We're talking about eight or nine races out there that could potentially be within the margin of error,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “In most cases a third-party candidate is probably not helpful to the Republican Party but there are a few places where it's been a benefit,”
Here are six races where third-party candidates could have a real impact on the election.
Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill
Hillary Clinton, U.S. President Barack Obama's secretary of state during his first term, has indicated her foreign policy would be more muscular than that of the current administration, and some experts said Clinton's stance most closely resembles that of her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
In a move meant to widen the space between herself and a president increasingly billed by critics as having ignored Iraq and Russia until events blew up in his face -- namely, a powerful terrorist force in Iraq and the Ukrainian crisis -- the likely 2016 presidential candidate blasted Obama's foreign policy slogan of "Don't do stupid stuff."
"Great nations need organizing principles, and 'Don't do stupid stuff'is not an organizing principle," she told The Atlantic monthly in an interview earlier this week.
Some experts said Clinton will have to dial back such rhetoric somewhat during the primaries.
"This is about posturing for 2016. But (Clinton) has to watch it. The big take here is that she's taking a general election position on foreign policy precisely because she doesn't think she 's going to have a credible challenger in the 2016 presidential primary," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.
But her rhetoric can only go so far, and if it veers too far away from progressive Democrats' views, she may face a challenge from that wing of the party.
"She's got wiggle room to differentiate herself from Obama, but she can only go so far," O'Connell said.
Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua
All politics is local — at least for vulnerable Senate Democrats seeking to survive a tough election year and headwinds from their party leader, President Obama.
In races from Alaska to North Carolina, Democrats are focusing their advertising on locally tailored messages like energy, jobs and manufacturing. Republicans, though, are using their television cash to focus on the national debate, hammering home broad critiques of Mr. Obama and his policies, notably Obamacare.
It’s the reverse of 2006, when Republicans controlled Congress and tried to focus on local issues, and Democrats repeatedly found ways to bring then-President George W. Bush into the conversation.
In the most competitive races Republicans have made criticizing Mr. Obama one of their top ad messages, along with federal spending and deficits, according to Kantar Media’s Elizabeth Wilner, who tracks the ads and who wrote an analysis for the Cook Political Report.
There’s a good reason for trying to nationalize the election and center it on voters’ perceptions of Mr. Obama, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.
“We don’t have a defining issue,” he said. “What we have is 71 percent of the nation think[ing] the country’s on the wrong track.”
Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times
As President Barack Obama considers sidestepping Congress to loosen U.S. immigration policy, a Reuters/Ipsos poll shows Americans are deeply worried that illegal immigration is threatening the nation's culture and economy.
Seventy percent of Americans - including 86 percent of Republicans - believe undocumented immigrants threaten traditional U.S. beliefs and customs, according to the poll.
The findings suggest immigration could join Obamacare - the healthcare insurance overhaul - and the economy as hot button issues that encourage more Republicans to vote in November's congressional election.
With Congress failing to agree on broad immigration reforms, Obama could act alone in the next few weeks to give work permits to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants and delay some deportations, according to media reports.
Hispanic and liberal voters would welcome that, but the online survey suggests much of the rest of the nation may not.
"If President Obama issues a jarring set of executive actions on legalization he could be handing the Senate to the GOP, including putting New Hampshire truly in play," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
Read more from Alistair Bell at Reuters
Sen. Pat Roberts beat back tea party challenger Milton Wolf in Tuesday’s Kansas Senate primary — keeping intact the perfect record of sitting Republican senators and clearing the way for the veteran lawmaker to secure a fourth term in the November election.
The contest was seen as the second-to-last chance for the insurgent wing of the GOP to send a sitting senator packing in the 2014 primary season, with only Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee left to face a serious challenge in this off-year election cycle.
The Associated Press called the race for Mr. Roberts roughly three hours after the polls closed.
Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist, said the losses could spark some soul-searching among the GOP’s anti-establishment forces.
“As a career politician and a permanent fixture on Capitol Hill since the late 1960s who doesn’t even own a home in the state he represents, Pat Roberts embodies all that conservatives loathe, and by all means Roberts should have been ‘dust in the wind’ in this era of hyper-Beltway conservative discontent, yet he survived,” Mr. O’Connell said.
“Tea party groups have lost the element of surprise when trying to mow down an incumbent in high-profile races, and will likely need to go back to the drawing board and improve their tactics as well as their candidate selection,” he said.
Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times
Republicans say a GOP lawmaker’s comments that Democrats are waging a “war on whites” is just what the party doesn’t need to deal with ahead of the midterm elections.
With a Senate majority in sight, party strategists say their office holders need to avoid a distracting battle on the polarizing issue of race, which could gin up Democratic voters and turn off independents.
Brooks made the “war on whites” comments during an interview on conservative radio host Laura Ingraham's show, which focused on immigration and the border crisis.
A day later, he doubled down on his accusation in an interviews with USA Today and Newsmax.
GOP strategists said the comments aren’t helpful in the fight to win the Senate. Republicans need to gain six seats to take over the majority, a high bar, but one that appears in reach.
More broadly, strategists say the comments could hurt a party that wants to win back the White House in 2016.
The electorate for the midterms is expected to include a higher proportion of white voters than in a presidential year, which could help Republican candidates. That will be reversed in 2016.
GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said Democrats are likely to use comments like Brooks’s to paint Republicans as intolerant of minorities.
“It may not catch up with Republicans in 2014, but I can bet you that Democrats will use it against them in 2016,” O'Connell said. “It's what I would do.”
Read more from Cristina Marcos at The Hill