Republicans Wrestle With Implications Of Impeachment Vote

Ten House Republicans joined Democrats in voting to impeach President Donald Trump for inciting the attack on the U.S. Capitol. It was a sign that some members were unwilling to tie their political fates to the outgoing leader of their party but much of the GOP still stands behind Trump.

The defections represented a significant break among some high-profile members who are looking to distance themselves and their party from Trump as he leaves office.

According to GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, the Republicans betting their political fortunes on Trump losing his influence on the party are making a risky wager.

"Chances are they're probably going to face a primary in 2022. The Republican base is still walking in lockstep with President Trump and going against him comes with costs," O'Connell said.

O'Connell warned that Republicans "have long memories" and that the base of the party will remember the actions taken by the handful of congressmen Wednesday.

Read more from Leandra Bernstein at NBC 15 News

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Debacle In Georgia

For Republicans, it turned out to be a rough 48 hours. The party will soon find itself shut out of power in Washington, with the substantial exception of the courts, for the first time since early in Barack Obama’s first term a decade ago.

Both of the Georgia Senate seats fell to the Democrats, giving them a majority in that chamber, and unified control of the elected branches of the federal government, after noon on Jan. 20. Barely hours after these races were called, Washington descended into chaos as a mob, trusting in and infuriated by President Trump’s claim that the presidential election was stolen, breached the Capitol. The four deaths and destruction cast a dark shadow over Trump’s tumultuous term, triggering White House resignations and newly bipartisan calls for his immediate removal from office.

“The lazy take, championed by many in the mainstream media and by the chattering class, is to blame President Trump and the disjointed messaging that came from the GOP during the runoff,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “But the bottom line is that Republicans got outflanked on the ground in Georgia. Due to the changing demographics of the state, Democrats wisely invested in organizing and in registering new voters, and it paid off. Therefore, it is the Georgia Democratic Party that deserves the kudos here, and Georgia Republicans need to up their game because now, Georgia is a purple state that is getting bluer by the minute.”

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

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RNC Leaders Stand By Trump's Effort To Remake Party: 'Nobody's Turning On Trump Here'

Republican Party officials from across the country are not blaming President Trump for the party’s defeats in Georgia’s runoffs but instead are rallying to make election security its top priority in the next cycle.

At the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Amelia Island, Florida, party officials remained steadfast Wednesday in support of Mr. Trump and his remake of the party, despite the election setbacks that gave Democrats a Senate majority and complete control of the levers of power in Washington.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist with close ties to the White House, said the mayhem at the Capitol shouldn’t take away from legitimate concerns about election integrity.

“Those issues aren’t going to go away,” he said. “The Democrats do not want to have this discussion.”

Mr. Trump and his allies failed in scores of lawsuits challenging the election results in battleground states.

Read more from S.A. Miller at The Washington Times

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Florida Senators Marco Rubio, Rick Scott Mum On Election Challenge — But At What Cost To Their Political Futures?

U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott have both declined to take a public stance on whether or not they plan to join fellow Republicans on Wednesday  in challenging the Electoral College results that will confirm Joe Biden as the official president-elect.

The Florida senators’ silence comes as tensions mount over potential violence surrounding the results of the U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia on Tuesday and planned rallies in Washington, D.C., in advance of, and during, the election confirmation hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday.

“The rumor mill has it both of them will likely want to run for president,” said Ford O’Connell, Republican political strategist and former presidential campaign operative. “The reason why Rubio is in greater political danger is because his term is up in 2022. If he isn’t seen as loyal to President Trump, some up-and-comer could challenge him and conceivably win.”

The same holds true for Scott, whose term is up in 2024. O’Connell said that if either fails to challenge the election results, they risk alienating the GOP base.

Read more from Wendy Rhodes at The Palm Beach Post

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GOP Pushes Back As Trump Divides Party With Electoral College Challenge

President Trump has once again slashed a dividing line through the heart of the Republican Party with his demand that lawmakers reject the results of the Nov. 3 election, but this time the pushback is stronger.

Many erstwhile Trump allies say he has finally gone too far and asked too much. Seeking to upend President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s victory threatens the very foundations of America’s electoral democracy, they say.

Desperate to remain in office and convinced, despite a lack of evidence, that the election was stolen from him, Mr. Trump has asked Congress to reject the electoral votes of some states he lost to Mr. Biden and to deliver a second term to him.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist, said Republican voters are likely to support the fight.

“Obviously, the base of the Republican Party is in lockstep with Trump. They believe this election was stolen from them,” he said.

That feeling goes beyond the vote counting to include disparate media treatment of Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden and the role large social media companies played in censoring Republicans.

“I think Josh Hawley has a brilliant argument to make,” he said. “All we’re talking about is having a debate on the floor.”

Read more from Stephen Dinan at The Washington Times

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Could Pence Run And Win In 2024?

Vice President Pence is in the top class of 2024 GOP contenders as the Trump era nears its end.

The firm expectation across the Republican Party is that Pence will be a candidate in 2024, unless Trump runs again.

A Pence candidacy would have clear assets. Pence has given loyal service to Trump throughout the last four years, even as his personal demeanor is many miles removed from the president’s.

Many Republicans say it is important not to underestimate Pence’s chances, all the same.

“It all depends on whether Donald Trump runs, but obviously [Pence] has the support of social conservatives and fiscal conservatives — plus being the vice-president to Donald Trump for four years is a real bonus,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He is a very strong candidate.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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The Memo: Trump's Future Includes Several Paths

President Trump will likely never admit that he lost the 2020 election, but the attention of the political world is shifting to what he will do after leaving the White House.

It’s a tricky subject among those close to Trump, who don’t want to draw his ire for acknowledging that he was defeated by President-elect Biden, who will take office on Jan. 20.

Trump will clearly try to maintain his relevance after he leaves office. There are a number of overlapping roles he could play in order to do that: likely candidate in 2024, a GOP “kingmaker” for that race if he does not end up running, and a major media presence.

If he runs again, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell “he is without question the favorite” to become the nominee.

For now, O’Connell added, “he is essentially freezing the 2024 field because they are all wondering what he is doing.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Defense Bill Battle Showcases 2024 GOP Hopefuls

An intraparty fight over the annual defense authorization bill is turning into a showcase for rising conservative stars in the Senate who have their eyes on the White House for 2024.

President Trump has threatened to veto the legislation, and Republican senators weighing White House bids are being careful not to cross him.

Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) — four GOP senators who are potential presidential candidates in 2024 — voted against the legislation that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support on Friday.

“Overall, what it shows you is that for these folks who could be the future leaders of the party, it shows you how strong Donald Trump’s hold on the party is,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.

He said the issues being raised in the annual defense bill “are going to be important for the 2024 nominee.”

“The Big Tech part is huge,” O’Connell said, referring to Trump’s complaint that the legislation does not include language repealing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that provides legal protections to internet companies and allows them to engage in good faith moderation of content on their platforms.

O’Connell said language reforming Big Tech’s liability shield is a hot-button topic with conservatives who feel social media platforms censor pro-Trump content and may have helped President-elect Joe Biden win the election.

“We see the power that Big Tech wields,” he said. “It really fits in with a lot of the things Trump has been talking about.”

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Trump Latest Republican To Claim Voter Fraud In Democratic Cities, With Courts Hesitant To Intervene

President Trump isn’t the first Republican to allege voter fraud in big Democratic-controlled cities or to face charges that he is seeking to disenfranchise minority voters in those communities.

On election night in 1994, Ellen Sauerbrey looked poised to become the first Republican governor of Maryland since Spiro Agnew. But a late batch of votes, mainly from Baltimore, came through to put the Democrat over the top. Sauerbrey alleged fraud and challenged some 11,000 votes. Her opponent’s winning margin was less than 6,000.

Detroit is the focal point of the Trump campaign’s election challenges in Michigan, where there have long been allegations of irregularities and generalized corruption. In 2013, Democratic Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and racketeering.

Republicans have complained about urban Democratic political machines adversely affecting election integrity for decades. Democrats have increasingly argued that the real fraud is Republican attempts at voter suppression, especially in minority communities. In Georgia, where Trump is contesting the presidential election results, Democratic leader Stacey Abrams has accused GOP Gov. Brian Kemp of effectively stealing the 2018 gubernatorial election from her by the means.

“Urban blue centers have an incentive to cheat and/or skirt the rules set down by the various state legislatures because of machine politics and the need to deliver for the Democrat Party nationally, but also because the chances of being prosecuted are so rare since the courts at all levels have shown themselves so hesitant to weigh in on election matters,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

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

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President Trump Visits Valdosta, Georgia For First Post-Election Rally

His re-election campaign may be over, but President Trump still can’t resist a rally.

The president and First Lady Melania Trump head to Valdosta, GA, Saturday to stump with Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who are fighting to hold on to their seats in a double-barrel runoff Jan. 5 that will decide which party controls the US Senate. Both candidates are expected to appear on stage with the president at the 7 p.m. rally.

“Donald Trump understands the stakes of the game,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told The Post. “He knows that holding the Senate is the only way to maintain his legacy and his agenda.”

If the incumbents lose to Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the Republicans will lose their slim majority and the chamber will be evenly split, 50-50, between Democrats and Republicans.

That would hand de facto control to the Democrats, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris having the deciding vote in deadlocks as President of the Senate.

“Donald Trump understands that this election in Georgia is even bigger than Donald Trump,” said O’Connell, who anticipates a “fiery, entertaining” performance from the president — with Air Force One as the dramatic backdrop to the stage at Valdosta Regional Airport.

“If Republicans cannot prevail in Georgia, they could be wandering in the political wilderness for years,” O’Connell said. “So he has to convince the voters that if Republicans hold the Senate, the Make America Great Again agenda lives on.”

Read more from Jon Levine and Mary Kay Linge at the New York Post

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