US, Canada, Mexico Agree To Replace NAFTA, Bringing Relief To US Workers, Farmers

The United States, Canada, and Mexico agreed to sign a new trade deal to “terminate and replace” the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

President Donald Trump says the new agreement will transform North America into a “manufacturing powerhouse.”

The new trilateral trade pact will be named the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Trump called the deal “historic news for our nation and indeed for the world.”

The partners have agreed to stronger rules of origin for autos and automobile parts that exceed those of both the original NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The new deal has a 16-year lifespan, with a review period after six years, providing more certainty for business investments. According to the White House, the review period gives the United States significant leverage in pushing partners to comply with their obligations.

The steel and aluminum tariffs that the United States imposed on Canada and Mexico will be dealt with separately.

The trading partners now have 60 days to finalize the legal text and sign the agreement.

The USMCA can give Republicans another victory to point to, especially in the heartland and industrial Midwest, according to Ford O’Connell, a political analyst and Republican strategist.

“It certainly is important in the overall calculus for Republicans in their quest to hold the Senate and the House in 2018,” he said.

“But in terms of his political impact with voters, it will be a far more valuable for President Trump in his 2020 re-election bid with voters than it will be for Republicans in 2018.”

Read more from Emel Akan at The Epoch Times

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Stocks Soar On USMCA Trade Deal

America First Policies senior policy adviser Curtis Ellis, The Weekly Standard deputy managing editor Kelly Jane Torrance, Independent Women’s Forum policy director Hadley Heath Manning and CivicForumPAC Chairman Ford O’Connell on whether President Trump trade deal with Canada and Mexico is a template for future deals.

Watch the video at Fox Business

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How Would Flake Fare In N.H.? Strategists Weigh In

When Sen. Jeff Flake forced the delay of a final confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and ushered in an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, it proved momentous. For Democrats, it was a breath of bipartisanship. For Republicans, a reckless capitulation to the other party. 

But as the Arizona senator touched down in New Hampshire on Monday amid mounting 2020 presidential primary buzz, some Republican strategists are asking whether Flake’s action during the Kavanaugh nomination process will even matter.

It could cement his reputation as a peacemaker, the last defender of the dying era of civility, a narrative he pitched to an audience at St. Anselm College Monday evening. Or it could further irritate Republicans who saw a safe bet to transform the Supreme Court in Kavanaugh, and a careless and a self-centered disrupter in Flake. 

More likely, Republican analysts say, it won’t change anyone’s mind. 

To Republicans, voting no and bucking what for Republicans is a near-consensus choice on the Supreme Court could be the ultimate tactical error, strategists said. Whatever allies he makes on the left and middle would not likely stick by his side in 2020, many warned.

“When it comes to Supreme Court judges of the federal judiciary, Republicans of all wings of the party are pretty much on the same page,” said Ford O’Connell, a former aide to the McCain presidential campaign in 2008. “… And I don’t see the Democratic party base, even in a presidential primary, giving him the time of day.”

Read more from Ethan DeWitt at the Concord Monitor

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U.S. Deputy Attorney General's Job Hanging In Balance, Partisan Animosity Sensed In Washington

After Monday's flurry of conflicting U.S. media reports, it remains unknown whether U.S. President Donald Trump will fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

But if that happens, Democrats will be up in arms, as Rosenstein is supervising the investigation into whether Trump's campaign colluded with Russia to clinch the 2016 presidential elections.

The two are slated to meet at the White House on Thursday, but it remains unknown what will happen. Some experts believe firing Rosenstein would be too risky a move for Trump.

The issue highlights the ongoing probe over whether Trump's campaign team colluded with Moscow in a bid to clinch the 2016 presidential elections, as Rosenstein is supervising the investigation into the controversial matter, which is headed by Special Council Robert Mueller. Trump has called the investigation a "witch hunt," while Democrats continue to support the investigation.

Should Rosenstein get the ax, there will likely be an outcry among Democrats.

GOP Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua it is unclear how the Russia probe would be impacted if Rosenstein were fired.

"But politically, the Democrats would be screaming to high heavens and that's what you have to think about," he said.

Indeed, in the lead up to November's mid-term elections, a Rosenstein firing could galvanize Democratic voters to head out to the ballot box, and that would be bad for Trump, some experts opined.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua 

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Republicans Are Slowly Warming to Climate Change—Is it Already Too Late?

As Hurricane Florence took hold of the Carolinas in mid-September, partisan talk swirled like the winds.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi blamed the Trump administration for listening to “naysayers” who didn't want to switch to clean energy. Fossil fuels, she told reporters, absolutely contributed to the severity of the hurricane: “This is something that we have to look at in a big way, and it’s not served by denial of the facts.”

Former Vice President Al Gore weighed in from a climate conference in San Francisco. “Every night on the television news is like a nature hike through the Book of Revelation, and we’ve got to connect the dots between the cause and the effect,” he said. “Some people evidently can still deny the reality [of climate change]—it’s a little bit harder to deny the 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria last year.”

Rush Limbaugh used his radio show to fight back against what he called fearmongering. “This is made to order for the climate change–global warming crowd,” he said. “Hurricanes and hurricane forecasting is like much else that the left has gotten its hands on, and they politicize these things.”

He’s right, at any rate, that the topic is deeply politicized. A recent Gallup poll showed a gaping partisan divide on environmental policy: 69 percent of ­Republicans said they were satisfied with the current state of the environment, while 67 percent of Democrats said they were dissatisfied.

All of this feeds a self-perpetuating narrative that Americans’ views on climate change are split straight down the aisle—and are irreconcilable.

“You’ve got the Democrats who run out there and blame a specific weather event on climate change, and then you have someone like Republican Senator Jim Inhofe who will throw a snowball in the Senate to prove climate change isn’t real,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former McCain-Palin presidential campaign adviser. “Both sides call up the carnival barkers, and nothing gets done.”

But Democrats and Republicans have more in common than they might think.

The problem, said GOP strategist O’Connell, was that in solidly red states a lot of jobs relied on the energy industry. Republicans thought they couldn't be re-elected if they told their constituents, “Let’s kill your jobs,” he said.

Read more from Nicole Goodkind at Newsweek

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Conservatives Warn Of Republican Complacency Ahead Of U.S. Election

Conservative candidates sounded alarms to their evangelical supporters on Friday about voter complacency that could allow a Democratic takeover of Congress and an undermining of President Donald Trump’s agenda.

The admonition at the annual Value Voters Summit gathering in Washington came as some Republican strategists caution the party’s voters are not worried enough about the risk that Democrats could gain control of Congress in the Nov. 6 elections, when a third of the Senate and all House of Representatives seats are up for a vote.

“This is the most important midterm of our lifetime because it’s setting the direction of our country, and we’ve got to take it just that seriously over these next six and a half weeks,” said Mark Harris, a Republican running for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina that is considered highly competitive.

During a panel about the elections, Harris and others asked for more help from activists.

The concerns echo those of Republican strategists who say they are seeing complacency across the country. Democrats are currently favored to take the House and have growing confidence of adding the two Senate seats that would give them control of that chamber.

“They don’t seem to grasp what is at stake, and they don’t seem to believe the polls,” strategist Ford O’Connell said of Republican voters.

Read more from Ginger Gibson at Reuters

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Kavanaugh Drama Risks Driving Moderates, Women Away From GOP

The sexual assault accusation against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh is undercutting one of the GOP’s strongest issues for its base and risks further eroding support from women and independent voters who will be crucial to deciding which party controls Congress after the November elections.

Republicans have been treading carefully in dealing with the accusation by college professor Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh attacked her while they both were in high school. That’s been evident in the careful statements from President Donald Trump and GOP lawmakers as they try to give Republican voters the conservative court majority that they want while not antagonizing women, who polls show already heavily favor Democrats in the election.

Trump, who is known for delivering harsh rebukes to critics, had a mild reaction Wednesday morning as uncertainty swirled about whether Ford would testify at a Judiciary Committee hearing next week.

Trump’s nomination of Kavanaugh already had become a flashpoint for the November election, highlighting some of the nation’s widest cultural divides. Polls show voters as split on Kavanaugh as they are on a variety of other political issues. A Sept. 10 Quinnipiac University national poll released before the sexual assault allegations were made public found that 41 percent of registered voters supported Kavanaugh and 42 percent opposed.

There is some peril for Democrats as well. Along with the gender gap, Republicans are suffering from an “enthusiasm gap” compared with Democratic voters heading into the midterms, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who has worked on state and national campaigns. But that could be closed if the party’s base views the 11th-hour allegations as an unfair tactic by Democrats.

“There is a risk for Republicans if they appear to be insensitive to the accusations, especially among suburban women,” he said. “But if this plays out as an ambush set up by Democrats, it will help Republicans in getting voters to turn out."

The political battle will play out in a handful of Senate contests on the ballot in November, but the impact may be wider in House races.

Read more from Steven T. Dennis and Erik Wasson at Bloomberg

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Economic Message Vital for Republicans’ Hold on Congress, Experts Say

The state of the economy plays a crucial role in driving electoral outcomes. However, it remains to be seen whether Republicans can hone their midterm message enough to turn the currently booming economy into a political victory this fall, according to political analysts.

Economic growth climbed above 4 percent in the second quarter, while the unemployment rate sits at 3.9 percent, near its lowest level in 18 years. U.S. job openings have surged to record-high levels and wages are finally starting to rise.

Even with all the good economic headlines, public polls, as well as historical data, suggest that Republicans are likely to lose ground, particularly in the House.

In November’s midterms, all 435 House seats and 35 Senate seats will be up for election. To gain control, the Democrats need to grab 23 seats in the House and two seats in the Senate.

Historical data also suggests that the president’s party almost always loses seats in the midterms. In the 21 midterm elections since 1934, the president’s party has lost ground in one or both chambers in all but three elections, according to Ford O’Connell, a political analyst and Republican strategist.

“History is working against the Republicans, despite the great economic numbers,” he said, adding that the single biggest factor in a midterm election is the party that controls the White House.

The average loss for the incumbent party in the House in a midterm election is usually about 25 to 27 and the average losses in the Senate is typically four, according to O’Connell.

According to O’Connell, Republican voters are complacent and the party needs to find a solution to the “enthusiasm gap problem.”

“The economy is going good, but the economy is not going to be enough for Republicans,” he said. “They have to remind voters of the consequences of giving power back to Democrats.”

Read more from Emel Akan at The Epoch Times

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Trump Attack On Sessions May Point To His Departure

President Trump has offered his most scathing attack on his attorney general to date, a move that could undermine Jeff Sessions’s authority and accelerate his departure from the administration.

Trump delivered a forceful criticism of Sessions during an Oval Office interview with Hill.TV on Tuesday, saying that he doesn’t “have an attorney general.”

And while the president has attacked Sessions in the past, Republicans say these latest remarks solidify the belief that Sessions’s days in the top law enforcement job are numbered.

Sessions didn’t address the president’s comments as he made a trip to Illinois on Wednesday, delivering remarks at a conference and making a surprise visit to the Chicago Police Department. But Trump’s most recent attack hung over his presence and was noted by local media.

Republican strategists told The Hill that despite Trump’s recent fiery attacks, Sessions is likely safe until after the midterm elections. The firing of Sessions, or his resignation, would simply add to a sense of turmoil ahead of the midterms, something unlikely to help the GOP.

Some GOP strategists, however, say Trump has reason to be angry with Sessions.

“We know why he is pissed. It is about the Russia recusal and, thus far Trump makes a very good point from whether or not he should have actually recused himself or at least he should’ve told him, at a minimum, that he planned to do that,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said.

Read more from Olivia Beavers and Jacqueline Thomsen at The Hill

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Some Gun-Toting Texans Embrace Democrat's Call For Tougher Firearm Laws

Texas cattle rancher Bill Martin is a lifelong Republican who owns more than 20 firearms and has been shooting guns since the age of 6.

He is now considering the once-unthinkable: voting for a Democratic Senate candidate who wants tougher gun laws.

Martin, 72, has a simple explanation for his change of heart: He is sick of the gun violence plaguing America and his gun-loving state, where 26 worshippers died in a church massacre last year.

Martin’s nuanced view on firearms - he loves them but wants to see tougher restrictions - is one U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke hopes is gaining traction in Texas.

O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso and the Democratic challenger to Ted Cruz in November’s Texas Senate race, has made reforming gun laws a central part of his platform, calling for universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons.

In previous elections, a Democrat calling for gun reforms in Texas, which has the country’s highest rate of gun ownership, faced almost certain political suicide. But O’Rourke is presenting a serious challenge to Cruz.

A Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll released on Wednesday shows O’Rourke having pulled even with Cruz among likely voters. Other recent polling has shown Cruz slightly ahead, and a Quinnipiac University Poll released Tuesday found O’Rourke trailing by 9 percentage points.

To win in November, O’Rourke would need massive Democratic turnout, said the University of Virginia’s Skelley, and the gun issue might help him motivate the party’s base.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and Texas native, is skeptical whether most gun owners will accept O’Rourke’s message. 

“I don’t see the issue helping O’Rourke,” O’Connell said. “It may help with his base, but this helps Cruz more.”

Read more from Tim Reid and James Oliphant at Reuters

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