Pence To Prez: Times Story All The News Unfit To Print

Vice President Mike Pence seems to have a plan for how to survive the Trump administration with his political future intact: Walk softly, and carry a big sign that says, “I’m loyal to you, Mr. President.”

Yesterday, that sign took the form of an official White House statement from Pence blasting a New York Times article suggesting he is positioning himself for a 2020 presidential bid should Trump not seek re-election.

“Today’s article in the New York Times is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team,” Pence said in the statement. “The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this Administration.”

Pence did not specify what part of the story — which detailed his fundraising, GOP outreach efforts and selection of political operatives over government veterans as his top aides — he is alleging is false.

The Times piece noted that despite Pence’s quiet political maneuvering, he’s gone out of his way not to appear out of step with Trump in any way, let alone publicly criticize him. That’s because even if he doesn’t believe in everything Trump stands for, he needs the votes of those who do.

“Trump voters are a plurality of the Republican Party,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said. “If they see him as potentially trying to force out Donald Trump, they are not going to support him. You can’t win the Republican nomination, let alone the election, without them. Pence is not an idiot.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at the Boston Herald

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Republican Attorneys General Dominating Democrats In Fundraising Battle

Republican attorneys general are trouncing their Democratic counterparts in 2017's fundraising wars amid liberals' failure to capitalize on resistance to President Trump.

The Republican Attorneys General Association raised $7.4 million through the first half of 2017, which the group said is a record-high number for the organization that formed in 1999. During the same period in 2015 and 2013, the association raked in $5.1 million and $4.2 million, respectively, as it headed into major election cycles.

The Democratic Attorneys General Association, meanwhile, raised about $3.1 million between January and June and reportedly hired full-time finance staffing for the first time in 2017.

The GOP is aiming to flip a pair of Midwestern states in 2018 where Trump outperformed expectations in 2016: Iowa and Minnesota. Republicans also are heavily invested in snatching the Virginia attorney general seat this year. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Adams, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, will square off against the Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring there.

Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist and veteran of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said the cash raised by Republicans will prove helpful, but "there is only so much you can do to overcome" the "electoral winds favor[ing] the Democrats."

O'Connell noted that both Democrats and Republicans recognize that the upcoming attorneys general elections will be of critical importance for redistricting and states' rights issues.

But the Democrats' strategy for thwarting the GOP's effort to paint all the attorneys general seats red focuses on making the coming elections all about Trump.

Read more from Ryan Lovelace at the Washington Examiner

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Trump Turns On GOP Congress

President Trump is firing pointed criticism at the GOP Congress, ripping lawmakers for sending him a Russian sanctions bill he opposes while failing to negotiate an ObamaCare repeal bill.

While tensions between the president and GOP lawmakers have been simmering for months, the latest exchanges suggest a turn in the relationship.

Trump lamented Thursday that the U.S.-Russia relationship is “at an all-time and very dangerous low.”

“You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us [healthcare]!” he tweeted.

It was the second day in a row that Trump ripped the Congress on both issues, and GOP lawmakers were happy to return fire.

Despite Trump’s stumbles, GOP strategist Ford O’Connell warned that lawmakers’ distancing themselves from Trump was risky. Highlighting divisions with Trump while failing to fulfill major campaign promises would demonstrate to voters that Republicans can’t govern, he warned.

“Running from Trump is a bad idea in terms of the policy and the agenda,” O’Connell said. “They don’t get it that their job is to govern.”

Read more from Jordain Carney and Christina Marcos at The Hill 

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Health Care, Tax Reform, Russia Loom As Trump, Congress Leave Town

All in all, July was not a great month for the Trump White House.

Setting aside the staffing drama and the brief rise and fall of the Mooch, the president’s top legislative priority stalled in the Senate, his son’s attempt to obtain politically damaging information about Hillary Clinton from Russia was revealed, and Congress overwhelmingly passed legislation imposing new sanctions that he had threatened to veto.

As Trump prepares to embark on a 17-day vacation in Bedminster Friday, his poll numbers continue to slip, Republicans in Congress are growing restless, and his ability to execute the ambitious agenda he campaigned on is somewhat in doubt.

According to Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, however, those who are impeding the president are hurting their own party’s chances to retain control of Congress.

“What Congress has to understand is that the Trump administration must deliver results, particularly by passing tax reform before the 2018 midterms,” he said.

Whatever Republicans think of the president’s behavior, Trump’s policy agenda still mostly aligns with theirs, and with their voters.

“Voters are not going to fire them over Trump’s tweets…. Running away from Trump is stupid,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

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Former Clinton Special Counsel: Trump Approved Russian Sanctions To Avoid Embarrassment

President Trump's decision to approve sanctions against Russia won't prove he is serious about taking on Moscow because the bill was signed to avoid embarrassment from his own party, according to President Bill Clinton's former special counsel.

Davis argues the sanctions do not negate Trump's encouragement of Russia during the campaign to hack into Hillary Clinton's email server, and publish whatever they may have found. 

Some Republicans agree that Trump was forced to sign the sanctions not because he wanted to but due to what they consider the media's fixation with the Russia storyline.

"I would be lying if I said Trump was not backed into a corner on signing the sanctions bill because of the media's obsession with Russia," Ford O'Connell a Republican strategist and former adviser to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, told the Washington Examiner.

While O'Connell believes signing the sanctions were the right thing to do, he expressed a fear many conservatives have that the newly imposed measures against Moscow could hurt the administration down the road.

"If it were not for the Russia/2016 election storyline, Trump should not have signed the bill. Not because Russia should not be punished for its actions in the 2016 election, Ukraine, etc., but because the bill encroaches on the president's foreign policy powers as outlined in Article II of the Constitution. In essence, ceding presidential authority to a dysfunctional Congress could come back to bite not only the Trump administration but also America with the bevy of problems brewing all over the globe," O'Connell added.

Read more from Sean Langille at the Washington Examiner

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Trump Continues To Push For Healthcare Revamp, But It Could Be Too Little, Too Late

U.S. President Donald Trump is still pushing for a healthcare revamp, even though his bill -- considered a last-ditch effort to pass legislation -- failed in the Senate last Friday.

Despite years of promise that they would repeal and replace the 2010 healthcare law, known as Obamacare, Senate Republicans failed last week to pass a draft bill. That sparked the White House's wrath, but President Trump did not not give it up.

Trump "will not accept those who said, quote, 'it's time to move on,'" Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump's senior advisers, told conservative TV program Fox News on Sunday.

"If a new Health Care Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon," the president tweeted Monday in a bid to tighten the screws on the Republican Congress.

However, Trump's threats to the Congress may be futile, as the party simply does not have the votes to repeal Obamacare, despite the controversy the bill has elicited over the past years.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua that last week's failure was not as much of a loss for the White House as it was for GOP lawmakers.

Repealing and replacing Obamacare "is a promise that they made seven years and four election cycles ago...This promise was made long before Donald Trump came along to be their nominee," he said.

O'Connell said that the Republican party would have had this problem regardless of which Republican sits in the White House.

"Voters are not going to blame Trump. They are going to blame the members of Congress who couldn't uphold their promises," he said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Trump Is ‘Odds-On Favorite To Win Re-Election’ Says Political Analyst

President Trump could win the White House again in 2020 — which likely would send hostile political operatives and the disapproving news media into an epic meltdown. News flash: Get ready. Mr. Trump will likely win re-election, says one analyst.

“President Trump did not ascend to the White House in the usual way; he broke with traditional campaign orthodoxy and tactics,” Ford O’Connell, a political analyst and adjunct professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, tells Inside the Beltway.

“While Trump’s first six months in the White House have been marked by early stumbles, a healthy dose of palace intrigue and low approval numbers, history says Trump is in fact the odds-on favorite to win re-election in 2020, should he choose to run. Why? Because presidential incumbency has its privileges. Since 1900, 20 presidents have sought re-election. Of those, 15 won and five lost — that is, if you include Gerald Ford, who was never elected in the first place.”

Adds Mr. O’Connell, “So how does President Trump avoid becoming the sixth president to be fired by the people in the last 120 years? Barring some unforeseen calamity or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, the fate of Trump’s presidency will live and die with the state of the economy in the fall of 2020.

“To ensure that the electoral winds are favorable to Trump, his administration must deliver results by passing tax reform before the 2018 midterms, showing significant progress on other key campaign promises: securing America’s borders, infrastructure, trade, conservative judicial appointees. He must also continue to instill in working-class voters in both the Rust Belt (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin) and Sun Belt (Florida, North Carolina, Arizona) battleground states the belief that he is tirelessly fighting for them. If Trump does that, voters will forgive his impetuous ways and rehire him,” the professor concludes.

Read more from Jennifer Harper at The Washington Times

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Bay State Native John Kelly Reports For Duty Today With Eye Toward Unity

Retired Marine general and Brighton native John Kelly assumes the White House chief of staff post today with high hopes he can better advance President Trump’s legislative and policy goals, amid his boss’ often erratic messaging and infighting among Oval Office advisers.

“Kelly’s job is to bring discipline and unity of purpose to a White House that has had early stumbles and a healthy dose of palace intrigue,” GOP operative Ford O’Connell said. “That could be a big game-changer for the White House, because of the things that they want to achieve, like tax reform, the budget, infrastructure — these are only going to come when, and if, the White House shows more of a unity of purpose.”

Kelly, initially tapped as Trump’s Homeland Security secretary, replaces former Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who Trump unceremoniously dumped last week after clashes with other factions close to Trump.

A former congressional adviser for the Marines, Kelly won plaudits earlier this year for his handling of the maelstrom over Trump’s travel ban, taking the heat for wording that didn’t pass court muster and seeing through revisions that held up before the Supreme Court.

Read more from Jack Encarncao at the Boston Herald

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Behind Trump’s Transgender Ban, A Political Calculus

Donald Trump has long evinced a live-and-let-live attitude toward gay, lesbian, and transgender people. And so when President Trump abruptly announced, via Twitter, a ban on military service by transgender people, Washington was dumbstruck.

But Mr. Trump had political reasons to play that card. Foremost, the president needs a legislative victory, and by giving House conservatives what they wanted on transgender troops, he has paved the way for passage of a key military spending bill. That bill includes funding for the wall on the US-Mexico border.

A secondary benefit, Republican analysts say, is a boost to the morale of social conservative voters. Frustration has been rising over Trump’s inability to effect much of his agenda, and there’s concern that turnout could be low in next year’s midterm elections. Lack of enthusiasm by conservative voters could cost Republicans control of the House.

“The top issue is getting the defense budget through, and getting legislative wins. You’ve got to trade,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “This is a casualty of politics, not a casualty of Trump being anti-gay.”

Trump’s sudden announcement Wednesday was tempered a bit Thursday, when the nation’s top general announced that current policy would remain in effect until the secretary of Defense had received the president’s direction and had issued implementation guidance.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at the Christian Science Monitor

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On Obamacare Repeal, Failure Is Not An Option For Congressional Republicans

People understand Obamacare won't last. They see many states being down to one insurer, premiums skyrocketing, and deductibles reaching stratospheric levels. They understand what comes next won't be perfect either and even that some people who have insurance now may not going forward.

What they don't understand is how a handful of senators can hold the entire Congress hostage. They don't understand how it possibly could make sense for someone such as Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who is up for re-election next year, to have so much trouble finding something he can vote for.

They don't understand how they can give Republicans control of both houses of Congress, the White House, and more than a thousand state and local offices – all because they were told this was the way to get rid of Obamacare – and Obamacare still stands.

They want the problem solved. Republicans in general still believe their party is the right one to make it happen. But they are getting more and more comfortable with the idea of exploring other options if the GOP can't get this across the finish line.

Democrats, to their credit, have done a good job of mucking up the process. Between their obstruction on Obamacare and their cloud of dust on Russia-Russia-Russia, they have kept the president from moving infrastructure, tax reform, and budget legislation – all early first-term goals.

And if Republicans can't get 50 votes for repeal, Democrats' more extreme plans will gain credence. They always viewed Obamacare as an interim step. The real goal, and Democrats are getting open about admitting it, is to pursue a full European-style single-payer healthcare system.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at the Washington Examiner

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