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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Republicans Open New Line Of Attack On IRS

The IRS is back in Republicans’ crosshairs following a ProPublica report based on the confidential tax records of the wealthiest Americans.

Republicans have long disliked the tax-collection agency, and have been critical of President Biden’s proposal to give the IRS significantly more resources. Now, GOP lawmakers are amplifying their attacks on the IRS in light of an unauthorized disclosure of tax data to ProPublica, arguing that it undermines taxpayers’ ability to have confidence in the agency.

It’s not new for Republicans to criticize the IRS, particularly when a Democrat is in the White House.

The agency was a major target of conservatives during the Obama administration following a 2013 report from TIGTA that found the agency had subjected Tea Party groups’ applications for tax-exempt status to extra scrutiny.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the Tea Party controversy of the Obama era is still on the minds of many GOP voters, and that attacking the IRS in the wake of the ProPublica report makes sense politically for Republicans.

“If the goal is to fire up the base before 2022, certainly just uttering the letters I-R-S will do that,” he said.

Many working-class Republicans are no fans of the rich, but “they do believe it’s only a matter of time before the taxman cometh for them,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Naomi Jagoda at The Hill

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Gas Tax Pitch Sits Uneasily Next To GOP's New Working-Class Appeal

President Joe Biden wants to pay for a new infrastructure plan by taxing corporations, but Republicans would prefer to use gasoline tax revenues — a stance that some say sits uneasily with their pitch as a working-class party.

Biden’s original proposal was to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, but Republicans have said that is a nonstarter. GOP lawmakers have instead floated indexing the federal gas tax to inflation, which would raise it over time.

A preference for consumption taxes over levies on corporations that could potentially hurt competitiveness, job creation, or wage growth reflects mainstream conservative economics. But Republicans have become increasingly reliant on blue-collar and non-college voters in recent election cycles, which has made the party competitive in the Rust Belt at the presidential level for the first time since the 1980s.

“Look, there is a real hunger in this country for ‘actual infrastructure’ (bridges, roads, dams, etc.), so what congressional Republicans should do is take a page out of Harry Reid’s playbook and go behind closed doors, settle on a plan and funding, and hold to it no matter what, because Democrats simply don’t have the numbers in the Senate,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Still, many Republicans think gas tax tinkering should be a nonstarter.

“Any talk of a new gas tax or gas-tax indexing needs to be scuttled immediately,” O’Connell said. “The reason is simple: By canceling the Keystone XL pipeline, closing ANWR, and refusing new permits for drilling of fossil fuels on federal lands, the Biden administration has already imposed an onerous gas tax on the working class of this nation, which has resulted in higher prices at the pump. Congressional Republicans would do well to remember who it is they are fighting for.”

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

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Rising Crime Rejuvenates Gun Control Debate On Campaign Trail

The battle over gun control is emerging as a campaign issue heading into the midterms as gun violence rises in the U.S.

The country has seen a wave of gun-related deaths as it reopens amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive for NBC News, firearm deaths increased by 15 percent last month compared to the same period in 2019.

Republicans have attributed the rise in violence to progressive efforts to reform and in some cases direct funds away from police departments. But Democrats say gun policies are at the heart of the issue.

Republicans, on the other hand, have taken a different approach to the spike in gun violence, arguing that it's a result of a lack of law and order.

“Democrats can talk gun control until they’re blue in the face but the problem they face at the ballot box in 2022 is skyrocketing crime in cities and states that they control,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Talk of gun control is a distraction to try to hold their base together because when I look at this, the root cause of the skyrocketing crime, outside of coming out of COVID, is really their ‘defund the police’ message.”

The GOP successfully tied a number of Democrats to the "defund the police" movement in the 2020 general election, a tactic some centrist Democrats blame for their narrow House majority.

Still, Republicans see an opportunity with suburban voters living outside of cities with surging gun violence rates. 

“This is about safety,” O’Connell added. “People, particularly the voters that maybe Biden picked up in the 2020 election, those suburban voters, when they don’t feel safe, they don’t care about which party is telling them that they’re going to make them more safe. They want someone to have a solution to make them more safe.”

Read more from Julia Manchester at The Hill

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Trump Legal Risks Mount With New York Moves

Former President Trump's legal woes are mounting with the news that state and local prosecutors in New York are conducting a joint criminal investigation into his company.

It's unclear exactly what charges the New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney are exploring, but the announcement signals an escalation in the offices' investigations that have at times spilled into public view in recent years. The rare move to publicly announce a criminal probe is also fueling Republican efforts to discredit it.

The immediate implications of the news are unclear, as both offices have been tight-lipped about their investigations, but it raises the stakes for both Trump and the prosecutors.

The immediate political ramifications are more readily apparent. Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, and his allies say the investigations are more evidence that Democrats are hellbent on using their powers to attack him even after he has left office.

Republicans have pointed to James’s 2018 campaign, in which she vowed to take on Trump as attorney general. Others say it’s part of an effort to stop Trump from launching a 2024 presidential bid.

“It’s clear that the Democrats and their allies want to stop Trump from running for president in 2024,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “They’re worried that he will win, and they will throw every roadblock in his way to prevent that from happening.”

Read more from Julia Manchester and Harper Neidig at The Hill

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