Whatever Happened To Marco Rubio?

Chris Christie’s victory galvanized the GOP’s establishment wing on Tuesday as they try to regain control of their party ahead of national elections. The centrist Republican’s glide to re-election in blue New Jersey comes a month after Ted Cruz rallied the Tea Party to shut down the government and promised a bloody revolt against weak-willed RINOs. 

And then there’s Marco Rubio. Remember him? 

“At this juncture he’s gone from ‘establishment frontrunner’ to ‘preferred Vice Presidential candidate’ for just about everyone,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told msnbc. “To the establishment money guys, when Christie says “Hey, I just won arctic blue New Jersey by 20 or 30 points,’ that’s tough to overcome. The fundraisers want to win and they will do what it takes to win.”

The bright side for Rubio is that he has plenty of time to recover.

Read more from Benjy Sarlin at MSNBC.com

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Democrat McAuliffe Elected Virginia Governor

Democrat Terry McAuliffe has won the Virginia governor's race, in a close victory over Tea Party conservative Ken Cuccinelli.

With 97 precincts reporting late Tuesday, McAuliffe edged out Cuccinelli 47 to 46 percent. 

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says Cuccinelli's appeal to ultraconservatives in the Virginia race may have been his downfall. 

"Terry McAuliffe was a very flawed candidate, and Ken Cuccinelli had a great chance of winning this race, but unfortunately his appeal was limited solely to the conservative Tea Party base, and he could never get out of his own way and move forward and appeal to a broader set of voters."

Read more at Voice of America

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Plagiarism Charges Test Paul’s 2016 Run

Sen. Rand Paul’s readiness for a presidential run in 2016 is being put to the test by the plagiarism charges swirling around him.

In an attempt to quiet the controversy, the Kentucky Republican’s office on Tuesday said the vetting process for his speeches would be changed so that “supporting facts and anecdotes” are clearly sourced.

But Paul’s handling of the controversy has raised broader questions about whether he’s ready for the intense media scrutiny that a run for the White House entails.

GOP strategists agree that plagiarism incident is nowhere near disqualifying for 2016, but cautioned it is just a preview of the pressure he’d face in 2016. 

“He just got a taste of what the presidential primary campaign trail is like and the scrutiny that everything you do and say will be under,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “So he is going to have to tighten up how he does things.”

“If he allows this to fester, with his 2016 aspiration, it could become a roadblock. Right now it is just a bump in the road,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Mario Trujillo at The Hill

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'Enormous' Gender Gap Costs Cuccinelli, Republicans In Virginia

Democrat Terry McAuliffe appears on the cusp of a solid victory over Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) following a gubernatorial campaign that underscored ongoing Republican struggles with female voters.

McAuliffe’s lead in the polls was built on a clear gender gap. The Democrat exploited a big fundraising edge to deluge the airwaves with ads focused on Cuccinelli’s opposition to abortion, his views on contraception and his failure to support the federal Violence Against Women Act.

Cuccinelli sought to refute the Democratic theme — that he has waged a “war on women” — with ads featuring an African American woman calling McAuliffe’s attacks on his social stances “ridiculous.”

“Cuccinelli couldn't get out of his own way and got slimed with the war on women attack,” says GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He never got outside the conservative echo chamber.”

Mitt Romney was hurt by the same argument, as were a number of Senate candidates in 2012.

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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The Reagan-Christie Model

"Die-hard conservatives thought that if I couldn't get everything I asked for, I should jump off the cliff with the flag flying – go down in flames," a well-known Republican leader once said. "If I can get 70 or 80 percent of what it is I'm trying to get, I'll take that and then continue to try to get the rest in the future."

What would be considered heresy in today's GOP was uttered by Ronald Reagan. As a governor in cosmopolitan California, he balanced the budget by compromising on tax increases. Rather than eliminating welfare, as was his preference, he worked with California's Democrats to overhaul it. He signed into law the nation's first no-fault divorce legislation over conservative opposition.

Even more shocking than this heresy is another: No governor in America is more like Reagan than Chris Christie. This week, the New Jersey governor will offer a desperately needed lesson in political genius to a party currently going the way of the Whigs.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at USA Today

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President Obama Lied About Obamacare – But Will It Matter?

Remember President Obama's trademark phrase on the 2012 presidential campaign trail?: "If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan. Period."

Well, he knowingly lied. Period. According to NBC News, as many as 80 percent of the roughly 14 million Americans who purchase insurance individually will have their policies canceled next year because the policies don't meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. For almost all of them, the new policy they will be required to buy will cost more. How much more? The phrase "sticker shock" is thrown around.

The president knew better. As long as three years ago, he knew regulations would prevent most policies from qualifying for the law's grandfathering provision. Depending on which news outlet you trust, he continued to repeat the promise dozens or even hundreds of times since.

So why did the president promise this? Because he wanted to get the legislation enacted and get himself re-elected in 2012. He won by 5 million votes, but if the more than 10 million Americans affected knew last November they were about to lose their coverage and see a dramatic increase in costs thanks to Obamacare, we might well be debating the policies of President Romney right now.

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

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Politics 2014: October 2013 Helps Shape Message For November 2014

The U.S. government shutdown, immigration reform, budget woes, problems with the Affordable Care Act online enrollment created a whirlpool of controversy and contretemps for Washington and provided blood-stirring language for the 2014 midterm elections and beyond.

Poll after poll after poll released after the federal government partially closed because the money ran out were variations on a theme: Republicans took a hit. A big hit.

President Obama and Democrats didn't come through unscathed, but definitely not as tarnished as Republicans in the budget confrontation.

Obama, however, took it on the chin with the less-than-smooth rollout of healthcare.gov, the site for Americans looking for and enrolling in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

The site went up on the same day the government shut down, so Obama's pain didn't begin until it became the only political game in town two weeks later.

That optimism is tempered by concerns the botched rollout of Obamacare could muck up the electoral horizon and negate gains Democrats made during the government shutdown at the expense of the GOP.

"They certainly made the road to a Senate majority much more difficult," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said of Republicans who embraced the shutdown strategy.

If Obamacare ends up clearly hurting consumers, Republicans could argue their reasoning for shutting down the government was sound, said Jennifer Duffy, a Senate analyst for the Cook Report.

Read more from Nicole Debevec at United Press International 

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Carpe Diem, Republicans

So far, the Obamacare website literally has been a joke. But don't take comedian Jon Stewart's word for it. Or mine. Or Jimmy Fallon's. Or Jay Leno's. That's what 60 percent of Americans say, according to the latest Fox News poll.

Who can blame them? News reports say fewer than one in 10 Americans who attempted to sign up were able to actually enroll. Not even the login experience could be made to work for a significant portion of the site's visitors. And those that did get in received bad information, encountered a calculator – a CALCULATOR! – that didn't work, along with other problems. And the insurance companies receiving these applications say they've received faulty info, blank information fields, spouses listed as children and on and on.

It's so bad even some electorally vulnerable Democrats in Congress have begun to suggest the law may not be ready for prime time.

And, as the Chicago Tribune and others have pointed out, the worst may be yet to come. The bugs, says the Trib, are not only in the computer but the law itself. The 30-hour work weeks. The counterproductive taxes and other gotcha features that have all but frozen hiring in this country. The high-profile companies that continue to look at the law and what it means to them choosing to run, not walk, away from offering benefits to employees. The enormous price hikes for many.

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

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Off To Rocky Start, Obamacare Remains Unpopular With Most Americans

U.S. President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform remains unpopular with most Americans amid major problems with the plan's website.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that Americans overall disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, with 50 percent of respondents disapproving of the law and 45 percent approving, although approval of the law has inched up in recent weeks among Democrats.

The poll came after the Oct. 1 launch of www.healthcare.gov, the website that forms the law's centerpiece. The site is riddled with technical problemes preventing many visitors from completing enrollment, which has sparked much criticism from U.S. media, pundits and the Republican Party.

A dog-eat-dog political fight over the Obamacare between the White House and Congressional Republicans led to a 16-day government shutdown this month and pushed the country into a dangerous brink of a default on its debt.

The ongoing Congressional strife over Obamacare underscores the larger fight over the country's future direction, with progressive Democrats preferring a larger government with more spending and safety nets and Republicans favoring a smaller government and less spending at a time when the country's 17 trillion U.S. dollar debt roughly equals its gross domestic product.

"This is much bigger than Obamacare. At the end of the day what this is really about is whether progressive, big government solutions can make the lives of middle class Americans better," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

"If they can't, the GOP is going to be in a better position in 2016," he said, referring to the next U.S. presidential elections. "But if Obamacare proves to be relatively successful, then progressives have a peg to hang their hat on."

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua 

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Obamacare Fight Sparks Jump In Political Fundraising

The budget and debt standoff in Washington that led to a U.S. government shutdown this month was a fundraising boon for Democratic groups, which had one of their most lucrative months of the year.

But the Republicans' push to hold up government funding to try to delay or defund Democratic President Barack Obama's healthcare law also apparently paid off for independent conservative groups, which raked in millions of dollars in the two months before the partial shutdown of the U.S. government began on October 1.

Monthly reports from the independent and party-affiliated groups, as well as the Federal Election Commission, shed light on the political fundraising frenzy that unfolded in September, as Congress' stalemate over spending and debt issues pushed the government toward the shutdown.

"This means the Democrats have jumped to a fundraising advantage" ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Analysts see the challenge as particularly difficult for Democrats in the House, where dozens of Republicans are safely tucked into conservative districts.

"It looks good on paper for Democrats in the House, but they've got such an uphill fight that it's not so bothersome" for Republicans, O'Connell said.

Read more from Gabriel Debenedetti at Reuters

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