Trump's Attacks On McConnell Seen As Prelude To 2024 White House Bid

Former President Trump is refusing to let his feud with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) die, instead amplifying it in what Republican strategists suspect is an effort to rev up the GOP base ahead of a 2024 campaign for president.

More than anyone else in politics, McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is emblematic of the Republican establishment in Washington, and Trump’s repeated salvos against McConnell appear designed to make it clear to GOP base voters that Trump — despite his four years in the White House — would be the true outsider candidate in a 2024 primary.

Trump has signaled his interest in running again for president in other ways, including supporting the work of the Make America Great Again Action super PAC, which held its first fundraising event at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.

“It’s the clearest sign he’s running for president,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell of Trump’s repeated attacks on McConnell.

Trump’s latest shot was to rip McConnell for being one of 19 Senate Republicans who voted in August for a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package, which the House passed last week, giving President Biden a major win. 

“What he’s saying is that McConnell isn’t able to keep his caucus in line. The people that are most upset about this bill are the base of the Republican Party, and what Donald Trump is saying is, ‘Your party has let you down again and only I can keep them in line,’” O’Connell added.

Read more from Alex Bolton at The Hill

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Democrats Point Fingers While Biden Credits Trump For Party’s Election Setbacks

Frustrated Democrats blamed one another and President Biden on Wednesday after the party’s devastating losses in Virginia and narrow win for New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy that was supposed to be a cakewalk.

The victory by Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, raised questions for Mr. Biden and hisallies, who have failed to deliver big-spending results for their base and now risk losing the House and the Senate next year.

“I don’t think the Republicans themselves did anything to improve the party brand,” said Republican Party strategist Ford O’Connell. “They were successful [on Tuesday] because they literally watched Democrats light themselves on fire for the past 10 months.”

He said former President Donald Trump helped Republican candidates by providing a road map of “America First” working-class issues.

Read more from Dave Boyer, Tom Howell Jr. and Mica Solemner at The Washington Times

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‘Perfect Storm’: Pence Lauds Loudoun County Fight Against Wokeness

Former Vice President Mike Pence took his support for parental choice and educational freedom Thursday to ground zero, better known as Loudoun County.

In what he called “the epicenter of a powerful movement that is spreading across America,” Mr. Pence lauded the parents and community members packing school board meetings to speak out about critical race theory, sexually graphic books, transgender policies and other hot-button cultural issues.

Ford O’Connell, a longtime Republican Party strategist who has worked extensively in Virginia, said Loudoun’s emergence at the tip of the spear of the culture wars was driven by a “perfect storm” of fast-changing politics, traditional values and upper-middle-class residents.

“If you want to look at the overall picture, change came too fast for this community,” said Mr. O’Connell. “And this community was affluent enough, motivated enough and educated enough to push back, unlike some of the others that may have similar demographics across the country in this shift from red to blue.”

“Usually when you have that, you typically have more white-collar educated folks who tend to side with what I call the woke agenda,” Mr. O’Connell said. “But in Loudoun County, I think they still retain some of what I call traditional Virginia values, and that’s why they’re having this.”

The schools issue took over the Virginia governor’s race in September when Democrat Terry McAuliffe, asked about the conflict at a Sept. 29 debate, said, “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Read more from Valerie Richardson and Mica Solemner at The Washington Times

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'Justice For J6' Rally Puts GOP In Awkward Spot

Saturday’s rally at the U.S. Capitol in support of the more than 500 people charged in connection with the storming of Congress on Jan. 6 is an embarrassing development for Republican leaders in Washington.

Earlier this year, they condemned the “mob” that overran Capitol Police in January, but now they don’t want to further fuel divisions within their party over that violent day.

While McConnell and other GOP leaders in Washington have sought to put the focus on Biden’s messy exit from Afghanistan, rising inflation and the Democrats’ plans for a massive spending package, many Republican base voters are more fired up by hot-button topics such as election fraud and critical race theory. 

“It’s one of the top issues along with illegal immigration and critical race theory,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “Essentially the base of the Republican Party feels that this country is being stolen out from underneath and that [Republicans], particularly in Washington, are not doing enough to stop it.”

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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GOP Governors Divided Over Response To COVID-19 Surge

Republican governors are increasingly split over how to respond to the latest coronavirus surge as the delta variant wreaks havoc on parts of the country.

While Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) have sparred with localities in their states eager to impose mask mandates in venues, including schools, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said last week that he regretted signing a ban on mask mandates in schools and asked the state legislature to reverse the decision. 

Meanwhile, divisions among Republican governors are also apparent when it comes to vaccine rhetoric.

Republican strategists argue that the division between the party’s governors isn’t a matter of ideological differences, but rather of geography.

Republicans have also deflected blame toward Biden’s response to the crisis. 

“They’re no longer listening to Washington because they feel that Biden doesn’t have a plan at all other than browbeating DeSantis and Abbott about what they’re doing,” Florida-based Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told The Hill. 

Read more from Julia Manchester at The Hill

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Republicans See Trump Endorsements Helping Candidates In 2022

Republicans are pushing back against the idea that former President Donald Trump has lost sway over the party after the former president's pick came out on top in a crowded Ohio primary election.

Mike Carey, a coal lobbyist and political newcomer, beat ten other GOP candidates, including state politicians, in a bid to represent Ohio's 15th Congressional District. The special election to replace retired Republican Rep. Steve Stivers will take place in November.

The win came a week after another Trump-endorsed candidate, Susan Wright, lost the Republican primary bid for Texas' 6th Congressional District. The loss prompted reports that the former president was losing his influence.

"This media narrative that Trump has lost influence over the Republican Party is beyond insane," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"This narrative is made to create doubt among Republicans about the direction of the party and to make sure they're not marching in a single file line," he continued. "If they can say Trump lost power, then, all of sudden, people start deviating from the America First Agenda and that's what Democrats want to see."

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at CBS 4

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Trump Candidate’s Loss In Texas Not An Indication The Ex-President Has Lost Clout, Strategists Say

The first loss of a Trump-endorsed candidate this year, in a special election in Texas, doesn’t diminish the former president’s clout in the Republican Party but shows that his endorsement alone isn’t enough for victory, analysts said Wednesday.

Susan Wright‘s loss on Tuesday in Texas’ 6th Congressional District in suburban Dallas should serve as a warning to former President Donald Trump and his hand-picked candidates, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

Mr. Trump‘s endorsement of Mrs. Wright this spring to capture the House seat formerly held by her late husband, Ron, helped her to secure first place among 23 candidates in the primary in May. But she lost the runoff election on Tuesday to Republican state Rep. Jake Ellzey, by a margin of 53% to 47%.

Mr. Ellzey had out-raised Mrs. Wright in campaign funds by early July, $1.7 million to $740,000.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the loss in Texas doesn’t tarnish Mr. Trump‘s status as the gold standard for endorsements in GOP primaries.

“Trump‘s endorsement has been in no way diminished, and Republican candidates in primaries will literally cut off their finger or promise their firstborn to get it,” Mr. O’Connell said. “His endorsement in this race was successful because either way, a Republican holds the seat, and the runoff was not between a Republican and a Democrat. This is a case where you have a candidate who just sat on her laurels and got significantly out-campaigned by her challenger.”

Read more from Dave Boyer at The Washington Times

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How Trump's Missed Opportunity Handed Infrastructure To Biden

Ten Republican senators at this writing support a bipartisan infrastructure outline. So does a like number of Democrats, including the party’s two main centrists, Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. That means if recalcitrant liberals can be kept in line, no sure bet, there are potentially enough votes for a resulting bill to overcome a filibuster.

A lot of disagreements will need to be ironed out in order to turn this potential into a political reality. But it remains a tremendous opportunity for President Joe Biden. Yes, the White House had relatively little to do with this, and no, Biden’s own attempt at bipartisan talks did not end well. It is nevertheless the case that this leaves Biden closer than ever before to having an infrastructure bill sent to his desk and validates his “two-track” approach to passing one — strike a deal with Republicans on traditional physical infrastructure projects while preparing to pass a bigger spending bill full of Democratic priorities through reconciliation.

Republicans fear their party may have an infrastructure problem to this day. "One would think that after President Obama and Pelosi's first stint as speaker, congressional Republicans would have a clue about how to effectively negotiate with Democrats," said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell. "Yet, they still look like a sad clown show, because they end up only publicly negotiating with themselves and getting nowhere, while congressional Democrats ultimately get just about everything they want anyway."

Read more from W. James Antle III at the Washington Examiner

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GOP, Business Groups Snipe At Biden Restaurant Remarks

Republicans and business groups are sniping at President Biden over remarks at a town hall event Wednesday night in which he told a restaurant owner struggling to hire workers that his business “is really going to be in a bind for a little while.”

Restaurant groups said Biden’s offered solution to restauranteur John Lanni — pay higher wages — won’t actually solve his dilemma.

GOP lawmakers reiterated arguments they’ve already been making about the expansion of unemployment benefits, arguing those policies are keeping workers at home.

GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said that Biden's remarks will hurt Democrats in the midterm elections because they're a "microcosm of the White House not understanding how business works on Main Street.”

Read more from Alex Gangitano and Naomi Jagoda

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Critical Race Theory Becomes Focus Of Midterms

Critical race theory increasingly looks like it will play a major role in the 2022 midterm elections as Republicans ramp up efforts on culture issues in their pursuit of winning back control of both the House and Senate. 

Arguments about critical race theory (CRT), a decades-old academic theory that puts the nation’s history of institutional racism at the center of teaching history, are regularly featured on conservative media and are increasingly being seen in school debates around the country.

Many Republicans, however, see an issue that could drive conservatives to the polls in a midterm election cycle, when turnout is generally lower. Democrats are defending narrow majorities in both the House and Senate. Historically, the president’s party has lost seats in his initial midterm election.

“This is an issue that can really help Republicans win back those suburbs that they might have lost in the 2020 election,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told The Hill.

CRT is something that “could contribute to a red wave in 2022, particularly as it relates to the House of Representatives,” O’Connell added.

Read more from Marty Johnson at The Hill

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