What Gingrich Needs To Do To Win The GOP Nomination

Re-Posted From The Daily Caller

Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign hit a major snag right out of the gate: In May, he alienated conservatives by criticizing Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal as “right-wing social engineering” during an appearance on “Meet the Press.” Less than one month later, citing disagreements over campaign strategy, many of Gingrich’s top campaign staffersbolted for presumably greener pastures. To say that the former House speaker’s presidential bid was left for dead by early summer would be an understatement.

But five months later, thanks to his solid debate performances, his opponents’ mistakes and the good deal of anti-Romney sentiment within the Republican base, Gingrich finds himself leading in the national polls for the GOP nomination.

While former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is still the odds-on favorite to win his party’s presidential nomination next year, Gingrich could pull it out. So what does Gingrich have to do to become his party’s standard-bearer in 2012?

Stay on message: Gingrich has a tendency to be his own worst enemy on the campaign trail. His recent comments on child labor laws and illegal immigration are evidence of his inability to stay on message at crucial times. He may be the smartest guy in the room, but there are times when he simply needs to put the brakes on his mouth. For someone with so many ideas swirling around in his head, that could be an extremely difficult endeavor.

Demonstrate organizational tenacity: Currently, Gingrich has significant leads in the IowaSouth Carolina and Florida nominating contests. However, his campaign is short on both cash and assets on the ground in many of the early primary states, which will make it very hard to convert these polling numbers into votes. Organizationally, Gingrich is certainly going to have to do more with less if he is to have a realistic shot at winning the nomination.

Win the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary in January: The key to winning the GOP nomination is momentum, and while Gingrich currently has momentum, he must maintain it for a significant period of time. Unfortunately for Gingrich, this could be difficult given that there have been some noteworthy changes to next year’s Republican presidential primary calendar. As The New York Times’s Nate Silver notes, there is a significant lull between the opening nominating contests in January and Super Tuesday on March 6. Given this prolonged break (Michigan and Arizona will hold contests on February 28), Team Gingrich must come out of the chute like gangbusters and score victories in the Hawkeye State and Palmetto State in order to accrue the campaign funds Gingrich needs to wage a drawn-out campaign. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt if Gingrich captured the Florida primary as well.

Gingrich’s odds of winning the nomination are long, but if he can pull off this trifecta, he could defy the skeptics and become the ultimate Romney roadblock. Only time will tell if he can actually deliver.

Ford O’Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, the editor of the Political Quarterback and an advisor to conservative candidates.

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Mitt Romney Fights Back On Two Fronts

Mitt Romney's presidential campaign scrambled on Monday to fight challenges on two fronts: fellow Republican Newt Gingrich's momentum and new Democratic accusations of Romney's frequent flip flopping on policies.

The former Massachusetts governor launched a media assault against President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, after Democrats released a biting new ad that accused the Republican of changing his policy positions with the political winds.

Romney also vowed to fight for every vote in New Hampshire, where he suffered a setback at the weekend when a leading newspaper endorsed Gingrich as a better choice for conservative voters.

The Democrats are targeting Romney early because "he's running as the presumed nominee," Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse told reporters.

Romney has failed to gain much traction in opinion polls. His support from Republican primary voters has stayed at around 25 percent, and a series of rivals seen as more conservative have briefly replaced him in the No. 1 spot.

Romney has been seeking to appeal to conservatives by staking out positions they agree with, such as insisting he would grant waivers to all 50 states so they can opt out of Obama's healthcare overhaul law and a by taking a tough stance against illegal immigration.

Strategists said Romney needs to do more to win over the Republican right if he wants to beat Gingrich, businessman Herman Cain and Texas Governor Rick Perry for the nomination.

"If he can demonstrate that he is going to put conservative principles in place to fix the economy ... he could have this whole fight in the general election with the Obama folks," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

Read more from Patricia Zengerle and Steve Holland at Reuters

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Herman Cain 'Reassessing' Campaign After Affair Allegation: Analysts Say Scandal To Help Newt Gingrich

Scandal-scarred Herman Cain held a conference call with his staff early Tuesday to say he is "reassessing" his campaign.

Cain assured his supporters that the next few days would proceed as scheduled - but then seemingly hedged his bets about whether he would stay in the race for the White House.

“But if a decision is made, different than to plow ahead, you all will be the first to know,” Cain told his staff, according to a transcript of the call published by The National Review.

Cain again denied an Atlanta woman’s claim that she had a 13-year affair with the married businessman, but acknowledged that the allegation was politically damaging.

“We have to do an assessment as to whether or not this is going to create too much of a cloud, in some people’s minds, as to whether or not they would be able to support us going forth,” Cain told his staff.

Ginger White stepped forward Monday to allege that she had a longtime affair with Cain, who has been married for 43 years.

His slip-ups have helped Newt Gingrich sprint to the front of the GOP field.

Several political strategists say Cain’s departure from the Republican presidential race is all but assured following the fresh allegations.

“I’m not sure he lasts until Iowa to be honest,” said Democratic political strategist Peter Fenn, who thought Cain’s exit would be measured in “days, not weeks.”

But if Cain drops out or not, his implosion continues to benefit Gingrich more than any other GOP contender, politicos believe.

Other GOP challengers have jockeyed for the support of conservatives who have not embraced frontrunner Mitt Romney - but politicos believe contenders like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann have already been too badly pummeled to net many of Cain’s supporters.

“I would put the money on Gingrich,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former presidential campaign adviser. “[Cain and Gingrich] are being backed by the same anti-Romney sentiment.”

O’Connell noted the situation was ironic, as Gingrich has had several extramarital affairs in the past - including one during the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton.

Read more from Alison Gendar, Aliyah Shahid & Jonathan Lemire at New York Daily News

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Will Immigration Stance Hurt Or Help Newt Gingrich?

Now that Gingrich is a GOP presidential co-frontrunner, he has to demonstrate message discipline if he wants to have a realistic shot at winning the nomination. And when it came to immigration last night, Gingrich failed.

In true Dr. John fashion, Gingrich took the right stance on immigration (for the general election), but at the wrong time (heading into the Iowa caucuses). At the very least, Gingrich should have waited until the Florida Republican primary before making his true feelings on immigration known.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Will Obama's 'Lazy' Comment Haunt Him?

It doesn't matter if the president's "lazy" comment was taken out of context, because in politics: "perception is reality."

And the perception right now is that Obama is willing to blame everyone but himself for America's high unemployment and alarming debt. That said, Republicans should certainly take every opportunity to use the president's comment to their advantage.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Can The Newt Boomlet Last?

Back from the dead, Newt Gingrich has landed a leading role in the James Bond-inspired political thriller “You Only Live Twice!”

Gingrich’s remarkable rebirth is a direct result of his superior debate performances, the fact that his name is not Mitt Romney and a cast of “anti-Romney” supporting actors who continue to incur self-inflicted wounds.

For Gingrich to win the GOP nomination, he will need to find a way to overcome his personal baggage (specifically, Beltway insider dealings) and appeal to establishment Republicans while simultaneously scraping off Cain’s supporters. Of course, this entire conversation is moot if Gingrich doesn’t win Iowa.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Romney's Play For Iowa

Re-Posted From The Daily Caller

In seven weeks, the game of musical chairs in the guise of debates will take a back seat to real voters in the Iowa caucuses. Although traditionally the Iowa caucuses have not determined the eventual Republican presidential nominee, the caucuses do have a track record of winnowing the field.

The early prognostication that Iowa would be a battle between Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty for the endorsement of social conservatives looks quaintly naïve at this point. With Newt Gingrich rising in the polls and Herman Cain joining Rick Perry on the decline, Mitt Romney can certainly smell blood in the nominating waters.

If Romney wins the Hawkeye State nominating contest and follows up with a victory in New Hampshire, he will most likely capture the 2012 GOP presidential nomination without enduring a serious fight.

On the other hand, if another candidate wins the caucuses and the former Massachusetts governor fairs poorly, Romney could find himself engrossed in a long, protracted contest.

Conservatives across the country are rooting for the latter outcome. In their view, if Romney is to ultimately win the nomination, he should have to work for it.

Bloomberg News poll of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers (conducted Nov. 10-12) shows a virtual four-way tie between Cain at 20 percent, Ron Paul at 19 percent, Romney at 18 percent and Gingrich at 17 percent. The Romney camp may be publicly downplaying the significance of Iowa and keeping their campaign low key, but with Romney backer Chris Christie scheduled for an Iowa visit, it’s obvious that the campaign now sees Iowa as a big prize.

Seven weeks out, Romney certainly has an opening in Iowa and is looking to deliver a knockout blow to the rest of the field. Only time will tell if he is successful.

Ford O’Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, the editor of the Political Quarterback and an advisor to conservative candidates.

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: Can Nancy Pelosi Retake The House?

Republicans are likely to lose seats in the House next November, but Nancy Pelosi will have to do more than just channel her inner-Sam Rayburn for the GOP to lose control of the lower chamber.

For the Democrats to net 25 seats: the economy would have to significantly improve, Rick Santorum would have to be the GOP presidential nominee, and Pelosi would have to promise not to take over the gavel should the Democrats win back the House.

There are still a lot of unknown variables, and stranger things have happened, but I prefer to deal in a modicum of reality.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Romney Still Trying To Seal Nomination

Mitt Romney is the Republican Party’s best bet against President Barack Obama.

Polls show he does best in head-to-head matchups against Obama, he has the most organized campaign team among Republican candidates, and he is easily winning the money primary by outraising all of his potential foes.

And if that were not enough, his top rivals over the last three months — Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry — have either flamed out or are on the brink.

Yet when Romney hits Sarasota on Monday for a private fundraiser just one month before Florida starts mailing out its first ballots, he will do so still struggling to put away a nomination that most political experts think he will eventually secure.

“This is Mitt Romney’s nomination to lose now,” said Ford O’Connell, a former presidential campaign adviser and a Republican. “He needs to close the door as soon as possible to keep the anti-Mitt vote from consolidating behind one of the other candidates.”

But conservatives continue to kick the tires on just about anyone else in the field. Even as the options dwindle, many still have refused to sign on with Romney.

“Mitt Romney just is not a true conservative,” said Lakewood Ranch Republican Craig Trigueiro, who a month ago wore a Rick Perry sticker on his lapel, then switched his support to Cain before sexual harassment charges against the candidate surfaced.

Even as those two candidates have run into new problems, Trigueiro is not ready to throw his support to Romney, weighing Newt Gingrich instead.

“I’m like a lot of conservatives,” he said. “If Mitt Romney is our nominee I will work hard to get him elected because we need to beat Obama. But I’d like to see someone else. Someone who is a true conservative. Someone who means what he says and says what he means.”

That sentiment ripples through the conservative ranks of the GOP, said O’Connell. The smart money is on Romney, but conservatives and Tea Party Republicans are still resisting because of Romney’s past positions on health care and a perceived shift on core issues such as abortion, climate change and immigration.

“For a lot of them, they have 2008 in the back of their minds,” O’Connell said. “Back then they went with John McCain because the establishment told them he was the most electable.”

McCain lost, and now conservatives are vowing not to go along with nominating a candidate just because they are told he or she is the best to bet to win next November.

Despite his opponents’ seemingly obvious flaws, Romney cannot seem to shake them — no matter how smooth his answers in debates or how well-researched his policy papers appear.

“In a lot of ways Romney has been trying to be the perfect candidate,” O’Connell said. “Those voters don’t care if you are perfect; they just want to see if you have some convictions.”

The image issue has dogged Romney for months. Even among his supporters, there is a perception he has repositioned himself since his days as Massachusetts’ governor on key issues. The perception is enhanced by influential conservatives such as Redstate.com founder Erick Erickson, who is pushing an anybody-but-Mitt campaign.

“There is no issue I can find on which Mitt Romney has not taken both sides,” Erickson wrote on one of the most well-read Republican blogs on the Web. “He is neither liberal nor conservative. He is simply unprincipled. The man has no core beliefs other than in himself.”

Between now and when Iowa votes on Jan. 3, Romney has to demonstrate conviction on some issues to make conservatives come on board, O’Connell said.

Iowa is critical for Romney. With the rest of the field in disarray, Romney has a chance to finish near the top there. If he does, and wins as expected in New Hampshire, Romney will be headed for Florida’s Jan. 31 primary with the money and momentum to clinch.

But if Romney struggles in Iowa with the conservatives, he could head to Florida in a must-win position, in a close race that could quickly become a protracted and expensive slog, O’Connell said.

Financially, that is a worst-case scenario for Romney. Already he has amassed $32 million for his campaign — nearly double that of his closest rival, Perry. But looming on the horizon is Obama, who awaits with $86 million in his re-election fund.

The pressure to raise money is driving Romney to spend Monday and part of Tuesday in Florida.

According to a poll released last week by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, Romney would fare best against Obama. The poll of likely general election voters in key swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio, shows that Romney does better against Obama than any of the other challengers, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

In Florida, Romney beats Obama 45 percent to 42 percent. No other candidate in the field leads Obama in Florida.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at Herald Tribune Politics

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Perry's Not Done Yet

Rick Perry’s “oops” moment will go down in history as one of the worst debate gaffes in presidential political history.

But, it doesn’t kill Perry’s campaign.

“Rick Perry still has a chance,” former presidential campaign advisor Ford O’Connell, a Republican, said.

The Texas governor has raised $17 million for his campaign in just three months on the trail giving him the second biggest campaign war chest heading into the early primary season.

That fundraising (click here for a ranking showing where all 8 of the top candidates line up when it comes to fundraising) assures that Perry is still Romney’s top rival because he can financially afford to advertise statewide in a big media market state like Florida.

It explains why Romney’s campaign, despite Perry’s slide in the polls, continues to put out press releases attacking Perry’s record in Texas. O’Connell said Romney’s camp isn’t going after Gingrich or Cain, because they know Perry is the candidate who is their biggest threat still.

The question becomes, how does Perry play his gaffe. The good news is that Perry is in demand for every talk show in the country at this point. If he can laugh it off and come off as an everyman who just went blank, he can recover, O’Connell said.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at Herald Tribune Politics

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