Sen. Rand Paul marked the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act at a ceremony this week honoring the late Maurice Rabb, a renowned ophthalmologist and civil rights leader.
It was part of his aggressive outreach to African-Americans and other nontraditional GOP voters as he works to expand the Republican Party and as he crisscrosses the country laying groundwork for a potential presidential campaign.
It's a community in which he has some fences to mend.
While campaigning for the Senate four years ago, Paul sparked a firestorm for questioning parts of the historic law, especially its underpinnings that place restrictions on private property.
Paul is now considered a likely presidential contender. And as the most active Republican leader in the effort to recruit African-Americans to the GOP, his comments from four years ago have become a thorn in his side.
As Paul works to appeal to African-Americans on the policy front, he'll need to continue sharpening his message skills.
"He learned a very, very valuable lesson: If it's too complicated to explain your position, you're probably in trouble," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell.
He's tried to clean up and clarify his comments about the Civil Rights Act, and in May 2012, he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he would have voted for the bill in 1964 if he had the chance. He "would have been there marching with Martin Luther King" during the civil rights movement, he said.
From a strategy standpoint, O'Connell said Paul has "gotten a lot better" at talking to the media and it's "wise" for him to be active in appealing to the African-American community, not only for his own political future, but for the Republican Party as a whole.
"His job between now and then is to continue what he's doing with minority outreach and try to bury this every way possible," he said.
Read more from Ashley Killough at CNN.com
Hillary Clinton has an impressive resume - eight years as first lady, eight years as senator, four years as secretary of state and a name recognized worldwide. Her main challenge in the run-up to the 2016 White House race is simply connecting with ordinary Americans, analysts say.
While Clinton came from a middle class upbringing as a small businessman's daughter in Illinois, she has been in the national spotlight since the early 1990s. She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have earned millions of dollars for speeches and books.
That has opened her up to questions over whether her wealth and status have insulated her from the problems of ordinary Americans, and analysts said her controversial response to a question on that issue earlier this month showed she is rusty in the public relations game.
Others contend that Clinton's wealth could open her up to a challenge from the left wing of her own party, "particularly in this Occupy Wall Street populist era," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.
"If she gets dinged up in the primary ... it could really damage her in the general election," he said, arguing that for Clinton to lose the general election, her Democratic base will have to sour toward her somewhat.
"She's got to find a way to change that narrative," O'Connell said of the perception among some that Clinton's wealth is a barrier in relating to average Americans.
While Democrats view Clinton as empathetic to ordinary Americans, independents are divided over that question, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Annenberg survey taken after Clinton made her controversial comments.
Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua
With a wide open Republican field, and Hillary Clinton faltering on the Democratic side, the notion of a 2016 race that pits former Gov. Mitt Romney against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is emerging as a possibility, but both have a lot of work to do before they face off in a general election, according to pundits and pollsters.
“Warren is viable because of the gaffes Hillary has made on the stump,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican consultant, referring to criticism and mockery Clinton is now drawing for declaring she and President Clinton were “dead broke” and struggled when they left the White House — though they command six-figure speaking fees.
“But it takes more for Clinton to stumble than for Warren to pick up national name recognition,” O’Connell said. Of Romney, he said, “A lot of folks have to falter in order for Romney to see daylight, but as long as you can raise money like a holy roller on Sunday morning, you’re viable.”
Neither Romney nor Warren have officially stated their intentions to take the plunge. But Romney’s recent political moves — hosting a national GOP confab, polling well in New Hampshire and planning to endorse Scott Brown there — and Warren’s national fundraising and her autobiography have raised speculation that both are looking at 2016. It would be a long-shot third run for Romney, and an equally challenging neophyte run for Warren, experts said.
Read more from Bob McGovern at The Boston Herald
U.S. President Barack Obama is faced with a dilemma as Iraq spins out of control, and there are no good options.
At issue is what to do about the al-Qaida-inspired radicals surging through northern Iraq, wreaking havoc and reportedly beheading hundreds if not thousands of victims.
Obama has suggested using U.S. air power against the terrorists, but the move could cause the U.S. to be seen as supporting what many in Iraq see as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's pro-Iranian and anti-Sunni stance.
In essence, air strikes would make the Unite States appear to some as indirectly siding with long-time U.S. foe Iran, as many in Iraq perceive al-Maliki as taking orders from the Islamic republic, experts said.
Indeed, since Saddam Hussein was ousted as Iraqi president in 2003, Iran has been locked in a struggle for regional dominance against the United States and Saudi Arabia, and giving Tehran more of a foothold in Iraq is exactly what the White House does not want to do, experts said.
But at the same time, there is pressure on the White House to act, as many fear terrorists could use Iraq as a base to strike the Unite States, much the same as when al-Qaida used Afghanistan to plan the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks against New York and Washington, pundits and analysts said.
Adding to the complexity, however, is that among the mix of fighters on the ground are some anti-government tribal groups who may be fighting under the banner of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a splinter group of al-Qaida. The radical militants are continuing their advances after seizing swathes of five provinces in northern and western Iraq in the past two weeks.
Back in Washington, some Republicans are foaming at the mouths that Iraq has gotten to this point.
"Their concern is that Obama (was perceived to) drag his feet so long that it got to this point," Republican strategist Ford O' Connell told Xinhua.
Read more from at GlobalPost.com
The gloves-off battle between Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, an establishment Republican, and his tea party challenger, Chris McDaniel, was reminiscent of a Hatfield and McCoys feud, with Cochran eking out the win.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell tells "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that Cochran, the underdog despite his 36-year incumbency, pulled out all the stops for a last-minute strategy change.
In a three-week time period, Cochran called on "every political marker that everyone ever owed him from Brett Favre, to donors, etc.," O’Connell said. "He had to fine-tune his message, and instead of pandering to the base, he decided to attack to the middle and basically tout incumbency in the fact that he'd bring home the pork."
The Cochran camp "increased the voter universe" via "an archaic rule that allows Democrats who did not vote in the Democratic primary to be able to vote in the runoff primary, even on the GOP side. So hats off to him. I have to say this was an amazing thing."
"I understand [McDaniel] thinks that this was underhanded, but politics is not a gentleman's game, and the rules were the rules."
Read more from Melissa Clyne at Newsmax.com
Establishment Republicans believe a successful night of primaries on Tuesday — in particular Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) surprising defeat of challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) in a runoff — effectively neutered the Tea Party for the foreseeable future.
Main Street spent $400,000 for Cochran during the primary fight, with $100,000 of that coming as a ground operation investment during the runoff period.
The Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a super PAC with ties to former Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour (R) all pitched in on the race, but were ultimately outspent.
Groups backing McDaniel outspent groups backing Cochran by more than $3 million, and Cochran had far fewer establishment-minded groups coming to his rescue than conservative groups that supported McDaniel.
Still, Cochran prevailed, even while running a decidedly unconservative runoff campaign that emphasized the federal money he’s brought back to the state as an appropriator and pitching for African American Democratic votes.
As GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who previously advised Barbour’s campaign, put it, the Mississippi runoff results should make conservatives rethink their whole strategy.
“Sen. Thad Cochran was essentially left for dead, and yet the Tea Party could not get the scalp on the mantle it so desperately needed. So, it’s back to the drawing board for grassroots conservatives,” he said.
Read more from Alexandra Jaffe at The Hill
In an improbable ending to a wild race, six-term Sen. Thad Cochran (R) of Mississippi defeated tea party challenger Chris McDaniel in a primary runoff vote – and did so with a critical assist from Democratic voters, many of them African-American.
Senator Cochran’s upset victory Tuesday dealt a major blow to the national tea party movement, which had appeared poised to knock out a longtime Senate Republican incumbent for the third election cycle in a row. Cochran is best known in the Senate as a quiet “workhorse,” skilled at directing federal dollars to Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation.
Just three weeks ago, Cochran’s 42-year political career looked to be finished. He had come in second behind Mr. McDaniel, a state senator, in the June 3 primary. Because neither had won a majority, the race went to a runoff. That’s when the Cochran campaign and key outside groups rewrote the playbook, aided by emergency fundraising by top GOP establishment figures in Washington.
Mississippi Democrats have their own nominee for the November election, former Rep. Travis Childers. If McDaniel had won on Tuesday, political analysts saw the Democrats as having an outside chance of victory in November. But with Cochran on the ballot, the seat is now considered safe for Republicans.
In Mississippi, Republicans have their work cut out for them in reuniting a party riven by the divisive spectacle of the Cochran-McDaniel primary. Nationally, too, the GOP’s divisions are as stark as ever.
“The narrative coming out of Cochran’s victory will be that the ‘establishment strikes back,’ ” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “The duel between the Hatfields and McCoys of the Republican Party is far from settled.
Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor