Why Some Republicans Think Vaccine Passports Will Backfire On Democrats

Republicans are seizing on the intensifying debate over coronavirus vaccination passports as part of their strategy for recapturing control of Congress in 2022.

In interviews and conversations with The Hill, GOP strategists and operatives acknowledged the growing eagerness among Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19. But many are also betting that emerging debates about so-called vaccine passports will help them play on voters’ fears of government overreach and privacy violations.

The idea of vaccine passports has gained increasing attention in recent weeks as eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations has rapidly expanded and Americans begin to see glints of a post-pandemic normal on the horizon. The White House has indicated that it will issue basic guidelines for such programs, though it has also said that it has no plans to create a centralized, federal requirement.

“It’s a political winner,” Ford O’Connell, a Florida-based Republican strategist, said. “They look at it as an all-out assault on personal freedoms and the Constitution, but also, it’s about protecting the average, ordinary Floridian who wants to live their regular day-to-day lives.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is among the Republicans who have come out early against the proposals. He criticized the idea of vaccine passports at a press conference Monday, calling it “unacceptable” for local governments or businesses to require proof of vaccination for people to “participate in normal society.”

Read more from Max Greenwood at The Hill

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Backlash Grows Against Georgia Voting Rights Law

Georgia lawmakers are on defense as prominent companies and business executives have come out in opposition to legislation signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) that has been criticized as an effort to stifle minority voters.

Georgia-based Coca-Cola and Delta on Wednesday joined a growing number of corporations this week criticizing the omnibus bill, S.B. 202.

The criticism from top executives comes as activists and Democratic lawmakers have put pressure on Georgia-linked corporations to take a more aggressive stance against the legislation, which the state’s General Assembly passed in a party-line vote last Thursday.

Some GOP strategists are skeptical that the corporate pressure will deter Republicans who are supportive of the bill.

Ford O’Connell, another GOP strategist, added: “Corporations are going to realize that they shouldn't have caved to the pressure the Democrats are putting on them in the media.”

Read more from Marty Johnson at The Hill

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GOP Seizes On Measures Barring Trans Athletes

Republicans are increasingly backing measures to ban transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports teams, seizing on a social issue that resonates with conservatives but that civil rights groups and the LGBTQ community say is discriminatory and harmful. 

The GOP support for the ban was on full display Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the House-passed Equality Act, which included two possible 2024 presidential hopefuls.

“You know who has run faster than FloJo? Seventy-six high school boys in America in 2019 alone,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said at the hearing, invoking the fastest female track and field athlete in history, Florence Griffith Joyner. 

The survey also showed relatively broad support for the bans among Americans. Fifty-nine percent of men and 46 percent of women polled said they supported the ban. Along party lines, 74 percent of Republicans said they supported a ban, while 40 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of independents agreed. 

“This is an issue that drives Republicans to the polls, but it’s also an issue that allows people to expand our audience,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “It’s not just our base that is not thrilled at the direction that this is going in, it’s a lot of people who are in the middle.” 

Read more from Julia Manchester at The Hill

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Republicans, Strategists Differ On Ways To Beat Back Racism Accusations From Dems

Congressional Republicans have a plan for Democrats’ repeated claim that White supremacists infest the Republican Party: silence.

Challenging accusations of racism and White supremacism is pointless because it won’t stop the name-calling, Republican lawmakers say, but sooner or later the Democrats will go too far.

Republican political strategists warned that Mr. Biggs and his colleagues are making a huge mistake.

Pushing back against accusations of racism is a stronger play, said Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist.

“It’s a reasonable fear,” Mr. O’Connell said. “But I don’t think they understand how Democrats move the goal posts in this arbitrary narrative of White supremacy. Eventually, they are going to have to confront the White supremacy allegations head-on because if you allow Democrats to go on and on the public will continue to believe it.”

Read more from Jeff Murdock at The Washington Times

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Biden's Bipartisan Deal Efforts 'Were Never Going To Work Out'

President Biden entered office billed as a consummate Washington deal-maker, but the Democrat's first major piece of legislation is unlikely to score a single Republican vote, calling into question his pledge to work across the aisle.

Democrat Jim Manley, a former top aide to onetime Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, suggested Biden cut his losses early.

"He was smart enough to realize quickly that negotiations with Republicans were never going to work out and that he made the right decision to use the so-called reconciliation process," Manley said.

Democrats, “from the get-go, said that they were going to use budget reconciliation,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.

A veteran of several Republican administrations said he thought Biden had never planned to concede much.

Read more from Katherine Doyle at the Washington Examiner

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Without Twitter, Trump Seeks New Ways To Speak Out On Biden, GOP Critics

Former President Donald Trump has returned to sparring with Republican critics, insulting Democrats, and making dubious claims about election integrity, but life outside the Oval Office presents new communication challenges, especially without access to major social media platforms.

On Friday, Trump released a lengthy statement denouncing the immigration and border security policies of his successor. He accused President Joe Biden of “disastrous leadership” and warned of a “spiraling tsunami at the border.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell expects Trump will continue putting out statements and periodically delivering speeches to supplant his loss of Twitter. His reach is more limited than it used to be, but a large and eager audience still wants to hear what he has to say and will readily amplify it.

“This is the party of Donald John Trump,” O’Connell said. “Unfortunately, he has been censored or blocked or de-platformed from major social media where he’d otherwise post these statements. He’s doing what the kingmaker in the Republican Party does to get his message out.”

Without the megaphone of social media or the bully pulpit of the White House, Trump is suddenly dependent on others to get his message out for him. The words of a former president remain newsworthy and journalists widely shared his latest statements, but avoiding the filter of the media is exactly why Trump placed such high value on tweeting as a candidate and president.

“What’s happened is, the traditional public square of getting information out has moved online. In some ways, it’s a hindrance to Trump, but it’s not crippling,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell dismissed suggestions of dissension in the Republican Party or resistance to Trump, arguing the base is united on the goal of taking back the House in 2022 and using Trump’s playbook to do it. The CPAC poll found 95% of attendees want the GOP to continue advancing Trump’s policies, even if many would prefer someone else at the helm.

“Everyone’s on the same page... Whether or not Trump is the next nominee, what you see in that poll is love for his ‘America First’ agenda,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at abc6

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DeSantis's Rising GOP Profile Fuels 2024 Talk

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has seen his star rise over the past year as Republicans look to him as a potential successor to former President Trump.

DeSantis’s profile grew early on after he took his cue from Trump by not shutting down his state in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Though Florida has suffered heavy losses from the pandemic, the governor’s approach earned him broad support from conservatives.

Since then, DeSantis has only grown more popular among the Republican Party’s grassroots, with some already pushing for him to be the 2024 presidential nominee. 

“What’s so appealing about Ron is very simple: He is the most influential and important person in the state that is the Republican Party center of the universe right now,” said Florida-based Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Recent statewide polling shows DeSantis’s popularity on the uptick. A survey from Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy released on Monday found the governor with a 53 percent approval rating, up from his 45 percent approval rating last July.

DeSantis’s growing support was on full view at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which was held in his home state. The governor delivered the opening remarks from the stage in Orlando and later emerged as the top potential 2024 candidate behind Trump in a straw poll conducted among the event’s attendees.

Read more from Julia Manchester at The Hill

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DeSantis, Florida, The Future Of The GOP

Four days after delivering his "Oasis of Freedom" versus the "Yoke of Oppressive Lockdowns" speech at CPAC-2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told the Sunshine State's lawmakers why it has the moniker, "Oasis of Freedom."

During his Tuesday State of the State address, he observed that Florida is open for business and open for education.

Ford O'Connell, a political analyst, Republican strategist, and regular Newsmax TV contributor, agrees that following the Florida blueprint will open the door to future GOP victories.

"The key to Republicans taking back our country is simple: Continue to make Florida a conservative model of governance for the rest of the nation," he tells Newsmax.

Just as following California's example may lead to the Democratic Party's demise, evidence is mounting that Florida could become be the GOP's future — and its savior.

O'Connell concludes that "if Republicans [follow the Florida model] in 2022, trust me when I tell you, 2024 will take care of itself."

Read more from Michael Dorstewitz at Newsmax

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The DeSantis Moment: Florida's Governor Emerges As Possible Trump Successor

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is quickly establishing himself as the Republican best positioned to inherit the mantle from former President Donald Trump if the latter exits electoral politics.

DeSantis has taken up the major themes of the Trump presidency — defending national sovereignty, assailing Big Tech, excoriating political correctness, pursuing economic reopening during the pandemic, and getting tough with China — and married it to a relatively popular gubernatorial record in a major state.

“Four years is a political lifetime,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “That said, if Donald Trump chooses not to run for president in 2024, there is no question that DeSantis, assuming he wins reelection in the Sunshine State in 2022, will likely be the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.”

Still, Trump will be 78 in four years. DeSantis is only 42. The two men are political allies. And they now reside in the same state. “Florida under DeSantis has been heralded as a beacon of freedom by conservatives, and with Donald Trump residing at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach and Republicans locked out of power at the federal level, Florida is now seen as the center of the Republican political universe,” O’Connell said.

“Gov. DeSantis’s leadership during the pandemic has earned him plaudits in conservative circles across the country. When other big-state governors were stressing lockdowns and stoking fears, DeSantis was pushing to reopen safely, and it paid off. His goal was to minimize death and suffering while maximizing openness,” O’Connell added. “And it is not just Republican voters who recognize DeSantis’s success and meteoric rise, there is a reason why the Florida governor is being hammered by the dominant liberal media. He is succeeding by following the science and the data and making media-anointed pandemic heroes like Govs. Newsom and Cuomo look like amateurs in terms of doing what is best for their constituents.”

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

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‘Their Hair Is On Fire’: Trump Fans Await Return To Political Stage

On his final day in the White House last month, Donald Trump told a small crowd of supporters at Joint Base Andrews, the military airport, that he had no intention of leaving the stage quietly.

Now the 45th US president is set to make a splashy return to the fray on Sunday with a keynote speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an annual gathering of Republican politicians and media personalities that has become a kind of rock festival for rightwing activists, especially college students.

Ford O’Connell, a Trump supporter and former Republican congressional candidate, said attendees were “dying” to hear from Trump, whom he described as the “leader of the Republican party, even if he is not in office in the traditional sense”.

“These folks are unhappy about how the 2020 elections turned out, but their hair is on fire after a month-and-a-half of the Biden administration,” O’Connell said.

“What they want to hear from Trump is: how do you move forward in 2022 and 2024,” he added, referring to the midterm elections in two years and the next presidential contest.

Trump’s speech will end an unprecedented stretch of near silence for the former reality TV star, who built his political career on regular cable television appearances and constant tweeting. After leaving Washington, he took off for Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and has stayed there since, playing golf and shunning the spotlight.

Read more from Lauren Fedor at the Financial Times

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