'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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Biden, DeSantis Set Aside Politics In Tragedy Response

President Biden and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who just might challenge him for the White House in 2024, were unlikely partners this week, united by tragedy.

Biden and DeSantis sat shoulder-to-shoulder at a meeting Thursday during the president's trip to South Florida to offer federal assistance to Surfside, the site of a terrible condo building collapse where the death toll appears set to reach above 140.

“For DeSantis, he has seen that playbook that was handed down by Rick Scott, Jeb Bush and others, and he knows that the best thing he can do is look like somebody who is in control of the situation,” said Florida-based GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “That means dispensing with partisan politics and putting on a mindset that is best for Florida.”

It’s unclear how the meeting will play with DeSantis’s political base, much of which overlaps with Trump’s. However, Florida Republicans argue that the base understands the political importance of the Sunshine State in a general election.

“If the Republican Party is going to get back into power in Washington. D.C., Florida has to put the party on its back and will them back into power,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Julia Manchester and Morgan Chalfant at The Hill

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Partisan War Over Teaching History And Racism Stokes Tensions In U.S. Schools

The school board of Virginia’s wealthy Loudoun County had planned to hold a routine meeting to close out the school year. Instead, it was pandemonium.

Many of the hundreds of parents who flooded the auditorium in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night were there to accuse the schools of teaching their kids that racism in America is structural and systemic – which the board denies. Some signs read, “Education not indoctrination” and “You don’t end racism by teaching it.”

The evening grew so heated that the board walked out of the room, leaving sheriff’s deputies to disperse the crowd.

Republican Party officials and strategists say they increasingly view the controversy as central to their efforts to paint the Democratic Party as having been taken over by its left wing.

Focusing on the issue could help Republicans win back college-educated suburban voters in next year’s elections that will decide control of the U.S. Congress, particularly women they have lost to Democrats in recent cycles, said Ford O’Connell, a Republican operative in southwest Florida.

“This is the issue that will get suburbanites with you,” O’Connell said. He cited an Economist/YouGov poll conducted last week that showed that 76% of independent voters hold a unfavorable view of CRT.

Democrats say Republicans are seeking to stoke cultural conflict because they lack an affirmative policy agenda in Washington after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2020.

Read more from Gabriella Borter and James Oliphant at Reuters

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Democrats’ Massive Rewrite Of America’s Election Laws Dies In GOP Filibuster

Democrats’ sweeping attempt to overhaul the nation’s election system fell to a whimpering defeat Tuesday, dealing President Biden his first major legislative loss.

While the immediate cause of death was a Republican-led filibuster, the legislation, which sprawled across more than 800 pages of text and would have overridden state election laws across the country, collapsed under the weight of its own liberal tilt.

All 50 Republicans voted to derail the bill, leaving it 10 votes shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster.

Democrats labeled the bill the “For the People Act,” but the strictly partisan debate belied that ambitious name. Each party accused the other of trying to rig elections in their favor.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said forcing a vote on the bill accomplished several goals for Democrats, including allowing Mr. Schumer to tell the left that he tried.

Mr. O’Connell said that raising left-wing issues time and again will make the ideas in the bill seem less radical to voters. He said Democrats likely will use the vote to accuse Republicans of racism.

“If they don’t get their way, they’ll use blame and shame,” he said.

That was the approach Mr. Schumer took Tuesday morning. He said Republicans who derailed the bill were siding with Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud.

Read more from Kery Murakami at The Washington Times

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