What Cantor's Fall Means To Financial World

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor canceled a scheduled speech he was to give Wednesday morning before the National Association of Manufacturers, as policymakers scramble to sort through what his stunning political loss means for the financial sector.

Cantor was expected to discuss a host of conservative policy initiatives at NAM's annual summit, but now he will be replaced by Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), according to a source familiar with the matter. No explanation was given by the source.

Cantor lost in a primary election Tuesday night to Tea Party challenger David Brat, an economics professor. His last minute speech cancellation signals a challenge establishment Republican policymakers face in rallying congressional support among Tea Partiers and Democrats on a host of financial services.

NAM has been actively engaged on a number of financial issues and Cantor served as a key congressional ally.

From reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, bipartisan immigration reform, to eliminating taxpayer-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Cantor was able to flex his political muscle in part because many viewed him as a potential successor to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

All of that's out the window now.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said that Cantor's Speakership ambitions could have made him a bigger target for the Tea Party.

"The fact that Cantor was one step from the Speaker’s gavel helped put the target more squarely on his back," O'Connell said. "This is upset of the 2014 primary season and an enormous victory for the conservative grassroots. It will certainly serve as a 'come to Jesus' moment for some folks in the GOP with respect to immigration reform."

Still, much of the political world was trying to figure out what Cantor's loss means for policy.

Read more from By Kevin Cirilli at The Hill

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Obama In Massachusetts As Woes Swirl

President Obama flies into the Bay State today for a fundraiser and a commencement speech amid a steady onslaught of scandals and missteps that Republicans say have “narrowed the map” for him and could prematurely turn him into a lame duck ahead of the midterm elections.

The latest Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll showed even in heavily blue Massachusetts, Obama faces as many detractors as fans, with his job approval/disapproval numbers in a virtual dead heat at 45 percent to 44 percent.

“When you’re barely treading water in a Democratic stronghold like Massachusetts, it’s safe to say you’ve hit lame-duck status,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican operative in Washington, D.C.

“He’s going to Silicon Valley next, so he’s really narrowed the map,” O’Connell said, noting Obama is zeroing in on his party’s most reliable sources of deep-pocket donors. “The chickens are coming home to roost. He will try anything to change the narrative around.”

Read more from O'Ryan Johnson at The Boston Herald

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Cantor Loss Immigration Reform Death Knell

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) shocking defeat dooms any lingering chance of immigration reform.

Cantor lost to professor Dave Brat by a double-digit margin Tuesday night, after the underdog challenger made the GOP leader’s support for some immigration reform proposals a major focus of his campaign. 

Now, Republicans on both sides of the issue say the loss will terrify House members who'd begun to tentatively move toward compromise.

"I don't think you're going to be hearing anybody else talk about immigration reform anytime soon," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, who supports reform efforts. "The narrative is going to be that it's immigration reform that got him canned. It is certainly a 'come to Jesus' moment for some people in the party."

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Was Rand Paul's Red Meat Joke A Bit Too Raw?

More than any other Republican lawmaker, Sen. Rand Paul has aggressively gone after nontraditional GOP voters in the past year, trying to lure Democrats and independents into his party's column as he considers a presidential bid.

So it seemed odd last week when the libertarian-leaning senator from Kentucky made a partisan joke about the prisoner swap that secured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release.

His comment made national headlines, and the Democratic National Committee called his remarks "completely out of line" and uncivilized.

So, why make a joke that rips some of the very voters you're trying to attract?

Political experts say Paul is testing out his campaign language before it starts to count in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

"He's really trying to figure out what he can and can't get away with on the stump," said GOP operative Ford O'Connell. "If he can't broaden his appeal in the GOP primary, there is no general election."

Paul is also trying to place daylight between himself and other potential Republican candidates, O'Connell continued, as the GOP still lacks a clear frontrunner for 2016.

Known for his non-interventionist views, Paul has to convince Republican donors and voters that he's strong enough to be commander in chief, O'Connell said.

His joke was the latest in a string of comments last week expressing frustration with the Obama administration over the Bergdahl swap.

While O'Connell argued the dust-up over Paul's Taliban joke at the convention will be nothing more than a "blip" in the long run, it was nevertheless "out of character" for the senator.

"If he continues to do that, it's obvious that he hasn't figured out how to brand himself distinctly from the others," he said.

Read more from Ashley Killough at CNN

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U.S. President In Hot Water Over Taliban POW Exchange

U.S. President Barack Obama is getting heat from all sides for exchanging five terrorists for an American soldier over the weekend, spurring outrage from Republicans and some members of his own party alike.

In a move that has stirred controversy on both sides of the political isle, Obama traded five terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been in Afghanistan in Taliban hands for five years.

Some experts said the prisoner swap was a nod to the president's liberal Democratic base, which wants to see Guantanamo Bay's prison facilities closed, as well as a bid to change the narrative amid a recent White House scandal involving the Veterans Affairs Department.

"Obama was being pounded on both sides by the Veterans Affairs scandal, and I think he tried to change the subject and pivot to something that would at least keep the Democratic base on his side," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua. "And one of the things the Democratic base does not like is the idea of Guantanamo Bay."

"Obama is concerned about his legacy and wants to say 'I ended two wars, and I left no troops behind on the battlefield,'" O'Connell added.

But adding to the controversy is that Bergdahl may have deserted his post, a detail that came to light about two days after a White House celebration of his release.

The news, if true, could land Obama in a heap of trouble, experts said, as the White House had described Bergdahl as a soldier who "served with honor."

"They were looking for a narrative changer and what they might have possibly opened up was Pandora's Box," O'Connell said.

Read more from Matthew Rustling at GlobalPost

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Panicky Dems Abandon Obama

As President Obama reels from widespread, bipartisan criticism of a prisoner swap with Taliban forces in Afghanistan — with even Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s hometown canceling its welcome — the growing scandal is emerging as just the latest political problem for Democrats facing tough re-election fights in November, with possible ramifications for the 2016 presidential race.

The town of Hailey, Idaho, population 8,000, swamped with hate mail and angry calls over Bergdahl after his fellow soldiers accused him of desertion, yesterday canceled its plans for a big welcome-home rally.

“If you had 10,000 people, 5,000 on one side and 5,000 on the other, then just due to the national attention, we don’t know what to expect,” Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter said.

U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, publicly rebuked the Obama administration over the Bergdahl deal, saying, “It comes to us with some surprise and dismay that the transfers went ahead with no consultation, totally not following law. And in an issue with this kind of concern to a committee that bears the oversight responsibility, I think you can see that we’re very dismayed about it.”

Ford O’Connell, a Republican operative in Washington, D.C., suggested growing Democratic criticism is linked to election fears. “Their fortunes are tied to his approval rating. That’s only going to benefit Republicans. Like us or not, a lot of Americans feel it’s time for new management.”

Read more from O’Ryan Johnson at The Boston Herald

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GOP Strategist O'Connell: Jeb Bush 'Wants to Run' In 2016

Saying that "if his last name wasn't Bush he'd probably already be sitting in the White House," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush remains a dark-horse candidate for president — and a potential game-changer with his fundraising prowess if he decides to run.

Despite a "rusty re-entry into politics," rankling conservatives with sympathetic remarks on illegal immigration and support for federal Common Core educational standards, Bush "wants to run," O'Connell told Newsmax TV's "America's Forum" host J.D. Hayworth and Newsmax contributor Francesca Page.

"He could conceivably out-fund-raise everyone in the field," said O'Connell, "and as you know, if you can raise enough money . . . in what's likely to be a crowded affair, you always have a chance.

"But it's going to be a game-time decision for Jeb Bush," he said Wednesday.

O'Connell listed a few more GOP maybes: 

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich: "He's got a strong conservative record and he's also got a strong economic record. And . . . it's the second-most important swing state in the Electoral College."
  • Ohio Sen. Rob Portman: "His future really depends on what Kasich does — they'd be relying on the same well of donors. I love Rob, he's a pragmatic, solutions-oriented guy. The problem is he doesn't exactly light your hair on fire on the stump."
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry: "Sometimes you only get one opportunity to make a first impression, and Perry wasn't exactly ready for prime time in 2012. And I'm not sure donors and voters are going to forget."
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: "He's doing very well in the polls, and I'm going to tip my hat to Mike.... But I'm not sure he wants to run because — let's be honest — he's got a great deal at Fox News."
  • New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez: "Her back story is literally the modern American dream.... I'm going to make this prediction: I see her as the VP choice of just about everyone in the field who could possibly wind up as a Republican nominee."

Read more from Sean Piccoli at Newsmax.com

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Paperwork Woes Cloud 2M Obamacare Sign-Ups

The Obama administration is scrambling to figure out whether it is overpaying or underpaying for more than 2 million Americans enrolled in Obamacare as the White House confronts a paperwork disaster that threatens to cast more doubt over the controversial health care overhaul.

The latest Obamacare flap affects some 2.1 million people enrolled in taxpayer-subsidized private health insurance whose applications have conflicting information — such as income and citizenship and immigration status — that doesn’t match what the government has on file.

As a result, the Obama administration can’t figure out whether Americans are getting the actual subsidy amounts they are eligible for — or if they even qualify in the first place.

In some cases, Americans may even have to pay back the Internal Revenue Service if they got too generous a subsidy based on 2-year-old income information, experts say.

The Obama administration insisted yesterday that the discrepancies don’t automatically mean a patient is ineligible for Obamacare subsidies.

The latest snafu in the botched Obamacare rollout comes as Democrats who once championed the health care law face re-election.

 “This could really boost Republicans running in 2014 boasting that it’s time for new management,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “It’s the best evidence that the government is not the best mechanism for delivering social services.”

Read more from Chris Cassidy at The Boston Herald

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Why Democrats Are Cheering Over Mississippi Primary

Mississippi appears headed for a runoff in its donnybrook of a GOP Senate primary. That’s bad news for the Republican establishment, good news for the tea party – and cause for Democratic hope in November, despite the state’s deep-red hue.

Tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel leads six-term Sen. Thad Cochran by just over 2,000 votes, with 99.5 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning. More important, with a third candidate taking a sliver of the vote, neither of the top two candidates won a majority. If that result holds, Mr. McDaniel and Senator Cochran will go head-to-head in a runoff June 24.

“In a runoff it is hard to see how McDaniel is not a slight favorite, as his supporters are driven by something Cochran’s aren’t – excitement,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Runoffs usually entail a much lower turnout. Therefore the candidate whose core supporters have more intensity tend to win.”

And the tea party is all about intensity. In addition, Cochran has appeared tired, especially compared with the youthful McDaniel. Cochran declined to debate McDaniel.

If McDaniel wins the runoff, Democrats will have a rare – if slight – chance of winning a Republican-held seat in a cycle that generally favors the GOP. 

Democrats recruited former Rep. Travis Childers, a Blue Dog Democrat who held a solidly Republican House seat from 2008 to 2010, precisely in the hopes that McDaniel would beat Cochran.

Democrats are desperately trying to keep control of the Senate and have far more vulnerable seats than do the Republicans.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Thad Cochran’s Seat In Peril With Chris McDaniel’s Edge

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and insurgent challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel were locked in a tight battle as the votes were being counted late into the night here in the marquee Republican Senate primary race of the night Tuesday.

The six-term incumbent faced the real possibility of being forced into a politically perilous run-off June 24 as the result could have a major impact on Republican hopes of recapturing the Senate in November.

To win the nomination outright, a candidate needed to secure 50 percent of the vote. With 86 percent of the precincts reporting late Tuesday evening, Mr. Cochran trailed with 48.4 percent to 50.0 percent for Mr. McDaniel, with a third candidate taking the rest.

Mr. Cochran’s supporters hoped the incumbent could hang on for an outright win, fearing that a runoff later this month would favor his tea party-backed opponent.

The winner of the runoff will face former Rep. Travis Childers, who easily won the Democratic nomination and could benefit from an extended battle on the Republican side.

Ford O’Connnell, a Washington-based GOP consultant, said that Mr. McDaniel sent a message with his strong showing.

“Cochran has thrown everything at McDaniel including the kitchen sink and there is no question McDaniel is standing his ground,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Without Rose-gate this might likely already be over, because it increased turnout.”

Mr. O’Connell also said that Democrats are looking to expand the map wherever they can and are more likely to invest in the race if Mr. McDaniel wins the race.

“They are going to look for every opportunity they can to try to force Republicans to pick up seven seats,” he said. “So they could start to marshal resources if McDaniel won, but it is still a long shot even if McDaniel is the nominee.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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