Getting all the races into the Federation isn't as fun as getting fewer races. With a total race situation you have to babysit everyone and be preemptive about attacks. You won't be able to stop a 800 power Thoraxian Warfleet from nuking the Andors, so don't let it happen in the first place. You also end up not fighting very much because of the massive attitude loss caused by combat. I would suggest you pick X races to form the Federation and then treat the others as acceptable losses.
In combat, you'll usually want max energy to fire power, 3 to shields, and 1 to movement. When you lose about half shield, full power to movement, the remainder to shields, and get out of there. You want to engage enemies one at a time. The difference between minimal, medium, and maximum power is really big. In order to take advantage of that you need to arrange a series of 1 on 1 duels. It is faster and more fun (to me) this way as well. You don't have to be too extreme about ensuring 1 on 1 duels, but keeping enemies isolated is important. You can mouse over ships and projectiles to see how dangerous they are and to choose the best way to deal with them. Don't forget your special abilities almost always have a secondary effect of neutralizing all shots, you can use this to regain shields amidst combat.
Get to know all of the Races and the interactions you can have with the races. That's the meat of the game, and there isn't an easy way around learning them, it will take some effort.
You need the Energy Blaster weapon, go try buying it at the Black Market. It is expensive, but makes combat much easier.