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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Trump’s $207.5M Post-Election Fundraising Shows He’s Still A ‘Major Force’ In Republican Politics: Analysts

President Trump, fundraising off claims of widespread election fraud, raked in $207.5 million after Election Day — a massive sum GOP strategists say shows he will remain a “major force” in Republican politics for some time to come.

Trump and the Republican National Committee’s joint fundraising operations brought in a whopping $495 million between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23 — with $207.5 million of it pouring in after Nov. 3 as the president’s campaign inundated inboxes with emails blaring “FRAUD ALERT” and sent texts like “We MUST defend the Election from the Left!”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Trump “definitely has the potential to freeze the field” for the next GOP presidential primary, “but he also has the potential to be kingmaker, too.”

“There is no doubt,” O’Connell said, “that this is the party of Donald John Trump for the foreseeable future.”

Read more from Lisa Kashinsky at the Boston Herald

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Trump In 2024? For Now, President’s Hints Are Freezing GOP Field.

President Donald Trump has yet to concede the 2020 election, but a long list of potential Republican hopefuls for 2024 is already forming – including President Trump himself.

Not since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 has a former president actively run for another term after leaving the White House. But Mr. Trump, never a slave to convention, may well run again. He suggested as much Tuesday at a White House Christmas party.

“If he does not win this election, he’ll run again,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

In fact, the massive fundraising haul the Trump campaign announced Thursday – $207.5 million since Election Day, to be shared with the Republican National Committee – could be a harbinger of things to come.

“It helps to set the groundwork for 2024 if he so chooses,” Mr. O’Connell says.

Either way, comeback bid or not, Mr. Trump is likely to loom large over U.S. politics for the foreseeable future.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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DeSantis Doubles Down On Trump-Backed Coronavirus Approach

While coronavirus cases surge nationwide and more and more governors give in to stricter public health measures, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is doubling down on his long-held strategy: No mask mandates, few closures and a focus on the economy. 

And he's not the only one.

DeSantis, along with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R), both staunch Trump allies, are maintaining an approach that mirrors the example set by the Trump administration. That's left strategists wondering whether they are betting that sticking with President Trump will propel them to reelection or perhaps even to higher office. 

The governor's supporters argue that DeSantis is pushing back on the restrictions with the state’s predominantly tourism- and hospitality-based economy in mind. 

“He gave each county the ability to do what they want to do,” said Florida-based GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “It’s the freedom of letting the counties decide what is best for them, which is going to ultimately serve him best with Florida voters.”

Read more from Julia Manchester at The Hill

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Will Trump’s ‘Rigged Election’ Claims Hurt The GOP’s Chances In Georgia’s Senate Runoffs?

Republican strategists are signaling that the Georgia runoffs featuring Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are even more important than the 2020 general election, especially with some in President Donald Trump’s camp — and often times the president himself — claiming the state’s election process is corrupt.

The Daily Caller spoke to a number of Republican strategists and those familiar with Georgia elections, and while they didn’t definitively say Trump and his supporters’ claims were hurting, they certainly indicated they weren’t helping the GOP maintain its majority in the Senate.

Ford O’Connell, who worked on the 2008 Senate runoff in Georgia, told Daily Caller that Georgia voters should be concerned about “irregularities” in the 2020 general election but still urged them to vote for Loeffler and Perdue to maintain the GOP’s slim Senate majority.

“Trump supporters are right to be livid, there are voter irregularities in plain sight, which the Democrats and many in the mainstream media choose to flat-out ignore,” he explained. “But sitting out the most important non-presidential election in the last 50 years will give the Democrats complete control of the federal government and the keys to destroy not only ‘The Make America Great Again’ agenda but also the strong legacy of President Trump, rendering the last four years useless.”

Read more from Christian Datoc and Henry Rodgers at the Daily Caller

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Biden's Cabinet A Battleground For Future GOP White House Hopefuls

Republican senators with an eye on running for the White House in 2024 are gearing up to battle against President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks, setting up a debate within the Senate GOP conference over how hard to push back on Biden’s nominees.

While the Senate traditionally gives a new president deference to fill his administration’s senior ranks, the environment has changed after four years of bitter partisan fighting under President Trump

Four Senate Republicans with potential White House aspirations in 2024 have already signaled their opposition to Biden’s picks, setting the tone for a contentious debate when Biden submits his nominees before what is expected to be a GOP-controlled Senate next year. 

“There is no question that the race is on to seize the Republican Party mantle should Trump not run in 2024,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, who called Biden’s first round of Cabinet selections “Obama 2.0.”

He said taking “a whack” at Biden’s nominees is a way “to consolidate the party’s base.”

O’Connell said Hawley, Cotton, Paul, Rubio and other 2024 hopefuls could influence the broader Senate Republican conference if they launch an all-out resistance effort against Biden’s picks.  

“There is a lot of room for these folks to define Biden because Biden has never defined himself other than he rode shotgun with Barack Obama,” he said. 

“I think a lot of these Republicans will want to be on the record singing from the same hymn book when it comes to the sort of globalist foreign policy that Biden is talking about,” he added.

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Trump, Pelosi Barrel Toward Final Border Wall Showdown

President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are headed to a final showdown over his signature border wall, setting the stage for a rematch of a fight two years ago that shuttered the government for 35 days.

The White House is requesting a $2 billion installment to continue building the wall, while Pelosi and House Democrats have countered with no new money for construction.

Democrats have also proposed rescinding earlier wall funding, according to a House Democratic aide.

But whatever the agreed-upon amount, many Republicans are predicting Trump is going to put up a fight for more wall funding.

“It’s extremely critical, and I think he’s going to go to the mat on the border wall. And I think a lot of Republicans are going to go with him,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist. 

“The immigration issue is about being pro-worker and pro-jobs, and that is important to the Trump message going forward. And if Republicans don’t put up on this, they’re worried that the base will lose faith in them on one of their issues,” he added.

O’Connell said the wall fight is elevated by President-elect Joe Biden’s vow to reverse Trump’s executive orders on immigration.

Read more from Alexander Bolton at The Hill

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Tells Trump 'The Time Has Come' To Concede

Eyeing his own 2024 presidential bid, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan unloaded on President Trump on Monday, saying that while he struck a chord with some disaffected voters he was ineffective, spawned “toxic politics” that chased away suburban women and young voters, and showed a “loose affiliation with the truth.”

The two-term Republican governor said it’s time for Mr. Trump to concede he lost the presidential election, saying Democrat Joseph R. Biden scored “a pretty overwhelming victory.”

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist with ties to the Trump White House, said picking a fight over the border wall with Mr. Trump showed a “misunderstanding” of the immigration issue.

He said the wall was emblematic of Mr. Trump’s willingness to take on Washington on issues such as immigration, where he defied party orthodoxy for both Republicans and Democrats, as part of a pro-worker, pro-jobs agenda.

Mr. O’Connell said the party’s 2024 nominee will have to build on that legacy, not attack it.

“He doesn’t get it yet,” Mr. O’Connell told The Washington Times. “He’s correct that the future of the Republican Party is a multiethnic working-class coalition. But beyond that, he doesn’t seem to understand what happened in this election. It seems to be more taking a jab at Trump and taking the side of Mitt Romney.”

Read more from Stephen Dinan at The Washington Times

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