Conservatives Showcase Diversity And Divisions At Annual CPAC Rally

Republicans are holding their breath Thursday at the start of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, the big annual Washington gathering that is expected to air divisions within the GOP four months after President Obama’s reelection.

The roster of speakers tells the story: From movement-conservative keynote speaker Ted Cruz, the outspoken new Republican senator from Texas, to libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, an establishment favorite, different strains of conservative thought will be on full display.

Other speakers will shift the focus to the recent, uncomfortable past. Mitt Romney, not a beloved figure in conservative circles, will make his first public address since losing to Mr. Obama last fall. And Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2008, will return to the spotlight after her recent split with Fox News.

“For a party seeking to rebrand and expand its tent, CPAC couldn’t come at a worse time,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Even if the public isn’t paying close attention to politics right now, the media are – and they will focus on conflict, not consensus. “The only thing we agree on is free markets,” says Mr. O’Connell. 

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Jeb Bush Shows Rust With Stumble

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) highly publicized stumble over whether he supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants has proven a major distraction during his media blitz on immigration policy — and it could be a sign of rust as he considers jumping back in the political fray.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said that rust could be Bush adjusting to the speed of today’s news cycle.

“You’ve got to recognize everything you say is going to be scrutinized and held against you. That’s the hardest thing for any candidate moving from the sideline into the fray of the general election,” O’Connell said. 

“It’s something he needs to work on, and something everyone in the Republican Party has to be cognizant of.”

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Republicans Will Win The Sequester PR War

It is true President Obama has the upper hand right now in the blame game over the sequester. He has traveled the country performing his version of Adele's Oscar-winning song, Skyfall, and his partners in the press have played their oh-so-predictable role in amplifying his message.

But if Republicans will be patient—if they will allow the cuts to take effect, endure the first day or two of press clippings and stay the course—this could and probably will turn into a massive PR victory for them.

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

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Marco Rubio Reply To State Of The Union Address: Can He Meet Expectations?

Marco Rubio is the “it” man of the Republican Party.

The junior senator from Florida is Latino, young, articulate, and photogenic – and on Tuesday night, he will deliver the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) address. In a first, he will give the speech in both English and Spanish.

On his back, Senator Rubio carries the hopes of a party that lost badly among Latino voters in the presidential race, winning just 27 percent. But Rubio represents more than just outreach to the America’s fastest-growing ethnic minority: He is, Republicans hope, a bridge to other minorities who also fled Mitt Romney in droves.

“He may not consider himself the savior, but he’s got to be the savior for at least one night,” says Ford O’Connell, chairman of the conservative CivicForumPAC.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Could New Karl Rove Primary Group Backfire On GOP?

From Nate Silver at The New York Times:

The strategist Karl Rove and his allies last week announced the formation of Conservative Victory Project, a new “super PAC” designed to lend support to what they see as more electable candidates in Republican Senate primaries.

An analysis of Republican Senate primaries in 2010 and 2012 suggests that money is usually the least pressing problem for the incumbents and other establishment-backed candidates whom Mr. Rove’s group might be inclined to support. Instead, some insurgent candidates won their races despite having been at more than a 10-to-1 fund-raising disadvantage heading into the primary.

The money raised by Mr. Rove’s group might also be more likely to help candidates if it is directed toward functions other than advertising which have a lower public profile, although coordination rules related to super PACs can limit such efforts.

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State of Union Response Carries Risk For Marco Rubio

After the State of the Union address Tuesday night, Sen. Marco Rubio steps before the cameras to deliver one of the Republican responses — and the stakes couldn’t be higher for the high-profile young senator.

“He has the weight of a party on his shoulders, not to mention he is going toe-to-toe with the most popular person in office right now,” said Ford O'Connell, who served as the rural outreach director for Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“I think, in some ways, his potential 2016 aspirations are on the line,” he said about a possible Rubio presidential bid. “I think the party needs Rubio to be successful more than Rubio needs Rubio to be successful because we are at a time when we need new leaders.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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Among U.S. Evangelicals, Surprising Support For Immigration Reform

Thou shalt compromise, at least on immigration reform.

That is the message being heard from some leading evangelicals in the United States. After decades of promoting traditionally conservative causes like opposition to abortion, many evangelical leaders are now wielding their formidable influence to persuade Republican lawmakers to back one of President Barack Obama's top priorities.

While evangelicals have been a major force in Republican politics for years, Republican lawmakers will take some persuading to back the sort of immigration reform supported by President Barack Obama, which includes a "pathway" to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

"Some of them don't necessarily see or acknowledge the changing demographics or the electoral merits of passing immigration reform, but I do think that many of these religious leaders could push them in that direction by really referencing the humanitarian interest, or moral argument," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"This is one area where social conservative input is extremely welcomed by the Republican Party," said O'Connell.

Read more from Alistar Bell at Reuters

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Karl Rove's Efforts Will Improve The 'Party Of Ideas'

With all that in mind, what are we to make of Karl Rove's new venture, the Conservative Victory Project? Is it, as former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour suggests, "a bad idea whose time has come?" Or is it yet another quixotic Rovian quest that squanders more money, divides more conservatives, and produces less and less in the way of concrete results?

The point Rove makes has merit. The real impediment to national greatness is not opponents in some Republican primary but President Obama—the most radically leftist president in our lifetimes. And with control of the Senate achievable in 2014, Republicans would do well to remember the Buckley Rule—in primaries, support the most conservative candidate who is electable.

We're a party of ideas. Let those ideas compete. Let Karl play. And let his opponents grow strong. As Rep. Tom Cole, the Oklahoman and former chief House fundraiser says, when it comes to primaries, "the more the merrier."

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

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2012 Union Membership By The Numbers

From the Bureau Of Labor Statistics:

In 2012, the union membership rate--the percent of wage and salary workers 
who were members of a union--was 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent
in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.4 million, also declined over the year.
Highlights from the 2012 data:
   --Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (35.9 percent) more than
     five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.6 percent). 
--Workers in education, training, and library occupations and in protective service occupations had the highest unionization rates, at 35.4 and 34.8 percent, respectively. --Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian,
or Hispanic workers. --Among states, New York continued to have the highest union membership rate (23.2 percent), and North Carolina again had the lowest rate (2.9 percent).
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Voter Turnout: Midterms Versus Presidential Elections

From Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball:

 - Average Turnout In Presidential Elections (1964-2008): 60.2%

 - Average Turnout In Midterm Elections (1966-2010): 46.2% 

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