Mitt Romney was spot-on during the 2012 presidential campaign when he said Russia was a geopolitical foe of the United States, while President Barack Obama was naïve, says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
"Mitt Romney was absolutely right, and unfortunately it wasn't just President Obama who bashed Mitt Romney for that. The Washington, D.C., press corps did, and really they all look stupid. In fact, Hillary Clinton last night in Montreal made a speech saying, hey, guess what, we've got to stop Putin in his tracks," O'Connell told Newsmax TV's John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Wednesday.
"So, I have a feeling that basically U.S. foreign policy is going to be a very big issue in the 2016 campaign on both camps, the Republicans and the Democrats, because clearly President Obama was naïve about how the world is shaping out, particularly with respect to Putin," he said.
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O'Connell, who has worked for several political campaigns, including the McCain-Palin 2008 presidential campaign, said Obama is still not on top of the issue.
"The president's behind the eight ball and he's playing catch-up. Unfortunately, right now Putin is playing chess while the president is playing checkers, and even a lot of Democrats privately are grumbling on Capitol Hill.
"Look, everyone knows what they want out of a president right now is leadership, and they want him to get a playbook going forward because essentially the Crimea's lost. We have to prevent future land grabs by Putin, and right now this is a task to President Obama and really the presidency overall going forward," he said.
"My biggest concern with President Obama is he's really living in a millennial, Facebook world and doesn't realize that we're not all interconnected the way we are in our online existence, and [he] doesn't understand that basically the idea of land grabs and extending influence is something that Putin really likes because he sees himself really in the same light as Peter the Great, and what he wants to do is extend Russian influence going forward and put the country back on the map as a world player."
The president's policy on Russia could play a role in the November elections, O'Connell said.
"What it's going to go to is President Obama's approval rating and failed leadership, because really in the 2012 election and even in the 2010 election, his highest ratings were on foreign policy, and right now we understand that essentially, when he gets tested, he's extremely weak. So, it's really going to be more of a failed leadership angle," he predicted.
In the gubernatorial race in Illinois, where Republican Bruce Rauner on Tuesday won the GOP nomination to face off against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn, O'Connell says the party could take back the governor's mansion.
"There is a real potential for that and it's something that the RGA wants to have as a trophy on its mantle in 2014, and there's no better trophy to fire up Republicans than taking, basically, a governorship away in the president's own backyard," he said.
"This is going to be a very tight race. Quinn's approvals are really in the toilet. Democrats are not that excited about Quinn. But, at the same time, what's a concern for the Republicans is that the Republican nominee's going to be painted a little bit like Mitt Romney and he's got to get out ahead and define himself before Quinn can define him, and that's really what the crux of the race is going to be."
As for the governor's race in Florida, where GOP Gov. Rick Scott was seen trailing potential Republican-turned-independent-turned Democratic challenger Charlie Crist in the latest Real Clear Politics poll, O'Connell said it could be a tough election.
"Well, it is a problem for Rick Scott because his approval ratings are so low. Let me say this: I am no fan of turncoat Charlie Crist, and essentially the problem here is turncoat Charlie Crist has made Obamacare a central issue in this election because he still has to win a primary against Nan Rich," he explained.
The GOP wants "to tag an unpopular program to him [Crist] and, essentially, remind Republicans, because there's a disproportionate number of Republicans in Florida right now that are in Charlie Crist's camp, that he is no longer Republican. And what Rick Scott is hoping is that by pounding Charlie Crist on Obamacare, he'll be able to push up his own numbers. And really, Charlie Crist is racing to basically say he doesn't want to cut Medicare Advantage, and that's really where the crux is."
"When he had a tsunami in 2010, Rick Scott won by a mere 1 percent of the vote. This is going to be the bloodbath gubernatorial race of 2014," O'Connell said.
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