President Obama's relationship with Republican leaders in Congress has hit a new low.
The president's personal jab at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over the weekend came as his relationship with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has soured over the last year.
“I’m not so sure the president was joking; to some extent, I think it was a fair assessment when [Obama said], ‘You have a drink with Mitch McConnell, no you.' It’s gotten to that point, Capitol Hill is a pretty entrenched place and neither the president nor congressional Republicans have the power to prevail on any issue,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said.
Whether or not his bipartisan immigration reform effort fails, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has primed himself for crossover appeal. In the face of a Republican Party that has been labeled as full of old, white, rich men, the young, charismatic politician whose parents emigrated from Cuba already presented a refreshing alternative. But now he can add "deal-maker" and "maverick" to his resume – something that will further confound Democrats in a potential 2016 match-up, experts say.
Rubio, long seen as a potential GOP presidential candidate, has spent serious political capital by crafting and attempting to sell to conservative media an immigration reform package that calls for ramped up border security, but also allows a path to citizenship for the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.
"Basically it makes his quest for the nomination more difficult, but definitely makes him a much more attractive candidate," says Ford O'Connell, a Republican political strategist who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008. "Besides the security, the economics of it, the pathway to citizenship makes it clear that he understands the GOP is running out of white voters."
After several years of complaining that Congress didn't have a budget, Republicans are now the ones holding up the 2014 budget process.
Both the GOP-led House and Democrat-controlled Senate have passed plans, but House Speaker John A. Boehner seems in no hurry to create the official conference committee that would hammer out differences.
Democrats, tired of taking fire for their budget record, are on the offensive, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid trying to jump-start final budget negotiations Tuesday. He took to the Senate floor and made a motion to formally set up the Senate budget negotiating team, but the GOP blocked it.
But top Republicans in both chambers said they wanted to hold informal talks first to see what kind of final budget deal is possible.
GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said the path to a so-called grand bargain is narrow, but possible, and Mr. Obama got a discussion started with a plan to reduce entitlement spending by $800 billion over 10 years.
"But he is fooling himself if he thinks that will get Republicans to raise more revenues," Mr. O'Connell said. "If the president can get Democrats to get more serious about entitlement reform — which doesn't seem likely right now — then I think you will see Republicans put revenue on the table and a deal will get done. But until then, we will continue to careen from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis."
US. Sen. Marco Rubio rode a Tea Party wave to victory in 2010 and has became a leading voice for the conservative movement over the last two years.
But you would not know either by the treatment he has received since releasing details of a comprehensive immigration reform plan.
Just in the last week, TeaParty.Org called it the "Amnesty Bill," and talk radio star Rush Limbaugh said he would never understand Rubio's plan.
Even Heritage Foundation leader and former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, one of Rubio's mentors, said the ideas in the bill were a violation of the rule of law.
The roughest reception had to come from author and FOX News contributor Ann Coulter, who said Rubio was telling the "Mount Vesuvius of lies about his immigration bill."
The big public relations campaign shows how serious Rubio really is about the issue, said Ford O'Connell, a veteran GOP strategist based in Virginia. He said Rubio is showing he is "all in on immigration."
No doubt about it, liberal activists are angry with President Obama over his budget proposal, which includes cost-saving changes to Social Security and Medicare – two of the biggest pillars of the nation’s social safety net.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, a usually reliable ally of the president, assailed the proposal Wednesday as “wrong and indefensible.” The day before, progressives delivered 2 million petition signatures to the White House denouncing the plan. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, a self-described Democratic Socialist, accompanied the group, megaphone in hand.
“We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, disabled vets, the sick, the women, or the children,” Senator Sanders said.
“Obama is cleverly using it as a bargaining chip to give himself wiggle room on other key agenda items like gun control and immigration reform, while still leaving open the minuscule possibility of reaching a budget grand bargain,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
Was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the target of a malicious bugging operation by left-wing conspirators seeking to derail his 2014 re-election bid? We can leave that to the FBI to determine.
But what we do know is McConnell's poll numbers are not good, and stories of nefarious Nixon-esque buggings likely won't do much to bolster his already sizeable re-election war chest. No Democrat has entered the race – performer Ashley Judd backed out after a rough meeting with former governor and still party stalwart Wendell Ford – but a credible opponent could pose a real challenge.
In The Not-So-Sanguine Category …
If McConnell prevails, it could be a clean sweep for Republicans in defending the 14 seats that will come up in 2014. Only Susan Collins in Maine and the eventual Republican nominee in Georgia are in any danger, and Collins has not drawn a credible Democratic opponent as yet.
The big question will be whether Republicans can net six Democratic seats and regain control of the upper chamber. Democrats will be defending 21 seats next year, and several are up for grabs. Rep. Shelly Moore-Capito, a Republican from a well-known state political dynasty, has raced out to a big lead in the Mountain State. The retiring Tim Johnson's seat in South Dakota could also easily flip.
U.S. President Barack Obama made a major concession to Republicans Wednesday by calling for cuts in Social Security and Medicare during an ongoing budget battle in Congress.
Signaling a will to compromise, Obama said his new budget plan would cut Social Security, one of the government's big-ticket spending items, by 100 billion U.S. dollars or more over the next decade.
"(The proposal) challenges the long-held Democratic notion that entitlements are sacrosanct," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua in an interview Wednesday.
"The fact that the president is catching heat from both sides is relatively a good sign," he said, adding that Obama is seeking middle ground between budgets put forth by both parties.
"He's just not there yet," O'Connell said.
"He's trying to prep his own party for that (cuts in spending) but at the same time he's hitting the Republicans pretty hard on the revenue side," he added.
For their part, if Republicans want to steer the president more in their direction, they will have to convince Obama of their belief that smart deficit reduction will lead to private sector job growth and a stronger dollar, O'Connell said.
But Obama's concessions may not be enough to win over Republicans, as the budget proposal also contains tax increases on upper earners, something GOP lawmakers are dead set against. Some analysts and media predict the bill will be dead on arrival.
You know politicians. It can't be just a stand; it has to be a courageous stand.
That explains the recent rush, particularly among Democrats in the Senate, to get to the new correct side of the same-sex marriage issue.
Same-sex marriage is going to happen. It's already legal in nine states and the District of Columbia, and the Supreme Court has before it two cases that could allow it to expand marriage for gays nationwide. Even if the Court doesn't rule accordingly, Nate Silver says his opinion data projects it will be legal in 32 states by 2016 and 44 by 2020.
So, who among the late converts do we take seriously? And what are we to make of the rest?
Republicans See The Road To The White House Running Through A State Capitol - Who Has The Best Shot?
Republican Govs. Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell have seen their stars dim since they rallied a dejected base with their victories in the 2009 election, a turn of events that underscores the volatile nature of politics and has opened the door for other chief executives to try to assert their influence over a party without a clear national leader.
While some grass-roots Republicans have looked to Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio for guidance, others say the party should be focused more on the states, where a deep bench of governors are driving conservative agendas and possibly positioning themselves for the 2016 presidential race.
Despite his stumbles, Mr. Christie cannot be counted out, Republicans say.
He “has the media persona and comes from an arctic blue state,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said. “But with 70 percent approval that is nothing to sneeze at, particularly for a party who might be willing to nominate Lucifer if it meant winning the Oval Office again.”
Florida is finally flexing a little political muscle.
After 168 years of seeing their politicians play only minor roles on the national stage, Floridians suddenly have legitimate presidential contenders, an influential national party leader and key voices shaping national policy in both major parties.
"This is the heyday for Florida," said Ford O'Connell a Virginia-based GOP political strategist.
Florida has long drawn attention as the nation's most critical presidential swing state. Now, O'Connell said, it is producing the political leaders reflecting Florida's status as one of the four largest states — finally.
"Basically, for the next four years Florida is the center of the political universe," O'Connell said.
He also happens to be the biggest Democratic threat to win a swing state governorship in the run-up to 2016's wide open presidential contest. O'Connell said Republicans know they cannot afford to have Crist, as a Democrat, running that state while Rubio, Bush or someone else tries to win Sunshine State voters for the White House.