Mitt Romney, Chris Christie Share Charlie Baker’s Spotlight

Gov. Charlie Baker’s inauguration served as a victory lap for former Gov. Mitt Romney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both of whom stumped for Baker and countless other GOP gubernatorial and congressional candidates across the country last year while boosting their own profiles ahead of the 2016 presidential race.

But their successful campaigning, which helped Republicans gain a number of governorships and take control of Congress, won’t be enough for Christie or Romney to overcome major political handicaps, political watchdogs said. Their biggest problem: Jeb Bush.

“Charlie was a big win in an arctic blue state,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

As for 2016, Bush “is pushing the timeline up,” O’Connell said ­— a possible attempt by Bush to keep Romney and Christie out and court their potential backers.

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at The Boston Herald

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Iowa Chairman Sets Valentine's Date For Jeb Bush

The chairman of the Iowa Republican Party says he hasn't heard yet from former Gov. Jeb Bush about his interest in the 2016 presidential race.  

While Bush campaigned for 2014 candidates last year, he didn't hit the early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first two nominating contests and where other potential presidential contenders have already made frequent visits.

Bush only recently announced that he's "actively" exploring a presidential bid, and his team and supporters have quickly started organizing behind the scenes to form political action committees that will help him travel to meet with voters and donors as he also campaigns for non-presidential candidates. 

His leadership PAC, Right to Rise, held its first fundraiser Wednesday night in Greenwich, Connecticut, which was attended by former high profile figures in the administration of his brother, George W. Bush. 

GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said now is the time for Bush to focus on doing the behind-the-scenes action like securing financial commitments and organizing his team so he can be better positioned to ward off other potential GOP contenders. 

"You got to convince these donors that you're serious, and you have to have a pre-campaign vehicle to do it," O'Connell said, referring to the leadership PAC.

Read more from Ashley Killough at CNN

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Fight Over Keystone Pipeline Could Be First Confrontation Between Obama, Congress In 2015

The newly elected Republican-led U.S. Congress may soon see its first round of squabbles with President Barack Obama over a legislation that would allow a pipeline to run from Canada to the Gulf Coast in the United States.

Republicans clinched control of Congress in November's midterm elections in the biggest sweep since World War II amid sinking popularity for Obama, as many Americans expressed frustration over daunting unemployment figures.

On Tuesday, the White House said Obama would veto any new legislation aimed at setting up the Keystone pipeline, setting the stage for the first political battle in 2015.

The House is expected to vote on the issue as early as Friday, and it remains unknown whether the newly elected Republican-led Congress could garner the two-thirds majority vote needed to override any presidential veto.

"Republicans have to understand that their job is to get that (bill) on Obama's desk. If he vetoes it, their job is to figure out how to get it past the president," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua, adding that it remains unclear whether the Republicans will have the votes needed to override a veto.

Read more from Matthew Rustling at Xinhua

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Obama, Republican-Led Congress Heading For Political Battles In 2015

As the new Republican-led U.S. Congress is inaugurated on Tuesday, many U.S. experts predict that some political battles will be fought in 2015 between President Barack Obama and the Republican Party (GOP).

"We're going to see some battles, but the GOP is going to pick and choose" which ones it wants to fight, Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua in an interview.

Republicans clinched control of Congress in November in the biggest GOP sweep since World War II amid sinking popularity for Obama, as many Americans expressed frustration over an economy in which millions remain jobless or underemployed several years into the recovery from the worst recession in decades.

O'Connell said Republicans were elected not with the mandate to stick it to the Democrats, but rather to pass bills that would help the economy and create U.S. jobs.

The GOP has to put early wins on the board in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential elections. "They did not receive a mandate to take over," he said, explaining that the public was frustrated with the Obama administration for not passing bills that might improve the economy.

Read more from Matthew Rustling at Xinhua 

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GOP's New Refrain: 'Not A Scientist'

High-profile Republicans converged last year around a new favorite refrain when it comes to climate change: “I’m not a scientist.

Party leaders and candidates for office repeated variations of the theme throughout the year when asked whether manmade climate change is happening and what should be done about it.

GOP strategists and observers say the line is ripe for mockery, given that politicians are expected to take positions on a whole host of issues without training in a given field.

Still, they said the refrain is as an important placeholder for candidates as the party grapples with its stance on climate change in the face of deep conservative skepticism.

“It sounds like one of the most nonsensical GOP talking points in quite some time,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who advised Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) 2008 campaign for president.

But O’Connell said “I’m not a scientist” plays an important, albeit temporary, role in the broader GOP debate.

“The fact is, the party’s not come to a consensus on how they want to deal with the issue of climate change,” he said.

“What they do agree on is that they do not want to pass what they see as middle-class job-killing regulations and taxes. But they want to maintain flexibility until they come to a consensus on the best way to handle it down the line.”

Read more from Timothy Cama at The Hill

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Rick Perry 2016: What 5 Leading Pundits Say About GOP Presidential Hopeful

A potential Rick Perry 2016 presidential campaign is already on the ground, running, and in the lead — at least if you count the number of trips he's made to Iowa since his last attempt at the oval office in 2012.

According to the Washington Times and other media sources, the Rick Perry 2016 campaign for president has been planting seeds since his failed run at the nation's highest office. The probable Republican candidate and governor of Texas has already made eight trips and attended 33 events in the Iowa testing ground since the 2012 election.

An indictment this year that charges Perry with abusing his power against Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was caught drunk driving, and reviews of his 2012 campaign are giving political commentators plenty to talk about.

Here are what leading pundits have to say about a Rick Perry 2016 run for president:

Ford O’Connell: "He has something no other candidate in the field would have — an impressive record as executive of one of the nation’s largest states. About 30 percent of all the jobs produced in the nation during his time as governor were produced in his state. The criticisms of his record-breaking 14 years as governor basically amount to: He is not a liberal and refuses to pursue liberal policies. Those criticisms will only help him in a GOP primary season."

Read more from Karen Ridder at Newsmax

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What We Learned About The American Voter In 2014

The 2014 Republican landslide has both parties poring over the data, hoping to glean insights about the current state of the electorate before the 2016 elections. But it might take until the next presidential cycle to answer the most pressing question: Is Republicans’ 2014 success the result of significant changes in how voters view the two parties, or is the structural difference between the electorates in presidential and midterm years so great that Democrats still maintain a strong demographic advantage going into 2016?

After a series of discussions with political experts, pollsters and strategists, here are the five things we learned about American voters this year.

1. The Democrats’ working-class-whites problem is serious.

“Given what’s happening with working-class voters and how disenchanted they are with the Democratic Party … Republicans still have a chance to win the presidency without [making] significant changes to policy,” said GOP consultant Ford O’Connell.

5. The 2014 electorate may tell us very little about 2016.

Or, as O’Connell put it, in a message to his party against getting overconfident heading into 2016: “Whatever happens in 2014 stays in 2014.”

Read more from Jonathan Topaz at Politico

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Jeb Bush Jumps To The Front Of Republicans' 2016 Race

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is suddenly leading the pack of 2016 presidential hopefuls in the Republican Party.

A CNN/ORC poll released on Sunday found Bush with the support of 23 percent of Republicans, 10 percentage points higher than his nearest rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The poll provided further evidence of how Bush has shaken up the field since his announcement he's "actively exploring" a presidential bid, an aggressive early move that thrilled the donor class.

The field is in a state of flux, however, with rivals such as Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also raising their profiles and courting support.

Here’s how the candidates stack up as 2014 draws to a close. 

“Jeb might have had the best moment. He signaled to donors that he's serious about the race,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He's in pole position. ... His declaration makes him an ever-so-slight front-runner.”

Read more from Cameron Joseph at The Hill

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Jeb Bush Turns Up Heat On Chris Christie

With Chris Christie set to discuss a potential presidential bid with his family over the holidays, Jeb Bush’s early moves in the GOP field may ratchet up the heat on the New Jersey governor.

The former Florida governor’s announcement this week that he’s “actively exploring” a presidential bid impacts Christie and his timeline for his own decision because the two have overlapping needs.

That means the fight for money, high-profile backers, and top-flight campaign staffers is on between the heavyweight establishment candidates, and it’s Bush that’s been the more aggressive candidate in the early going.

But Christie, whose term as governor doesn't expire until 2017, is reaching the point where he’ll have to decide to fully take the plunge and leave the job he loves for the national stage. He’s also hamstrung on the fundraising end to some degree because of laws that forbid him from taking campaign cash from firms in his home state while he remains in office.

In a field with more than a dozen candidates presently mulling bids, and one that many view as the strongest Republicans have put forward in years, every dollar is going to count.

“They’re working to corner those donors,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “You’re talking about maybe having eight or nine candidates in the race. They’re all looking to have enough money to make it the whole way through, and they’ll all want to go big in Florida, which is hugely expensive.”

“Bush needed the head start, not just from the organizational and money standpoint, but also from the campaign standpoint and reminding people who he is from last time he was on the ballot,” O’Connell said. “Christie hoped his timeline wouldn’t get pushed up, but here it is. This definitely changes the calculus for him.”

Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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Wall Street Braces For Elizabeth Warren 2016 Run

Big banks are unnerved by Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) rise in Democratic circles, which is raising the prospect of her running for the White House.

Supporters who have launched campaigns to push her into the race as a rival to Hillary Clinton launched a protest in Warren’s name outside Citigroup's Manhattan offices on Thursday, which only added to the industry’s anxiety.

The demonstration came a week after Warren led a populist uprising against changes to the Wall Street reform bill that were included in the $1.1 trillion government-spending bill.

Despite support for the package from the White House and Republican leaders, Warren nearly took it down — sending a strong signal of her influence on Capitol Hill.

Banking lobbyists interpret her actions as a bid for influence in the Senate, and also believe it could be a sign she is re-thinking her repeated statements that she will not run for the White House in 2016.

GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said that Warren plays well to the Democratic base, but that's about it.

“If she can't cogently explain how her ideas are going to put Americans back to work - especially blue collar voters who feel the economy has passed them by - mainstream voters will discount her as just another socialist crackpot,” O'Connell said.

Read more from Kevin Cirilli at The Hill

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