Is Trump Coming Too Late To The delegate game?

Donald Trump has spent much of the 2016 campaign complaining he’s being treated “unfairly.” The Republican National Committee hasn’t handled him with respect, he says. The other GOP candidates, and their establishment backers, are ganging up on him. The news media, starting with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, ask unfair questions and write unfair stories.

Now Mr. Trump’s steady patter of complaint has turned to rage, after his top competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, swept all 34 delegates at stake last weekend at Colorado’s state Republican convention – a forum in which the voters themselves had no direct input.

Political parties are private organizations, and not governed by the Constitution (which doesn’t even mention parties) or the Federal Election Commission. It’s up to the candidates, and their lawyers, to defend their own interests.

“If you want to crack the Da Vinci Code of this archaic language [on delegate rules] that few people understand, you’re going to have to start doing the nuts and bolts of politics,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Trump came very late to this realization.”

If Trump arrives at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July with the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the nomination, then there’s little that Cruz and party insiders can do to stop him. But if Trump arrives short of 1,237, he is widely seen as doomed to fail. Most delegates will be free to vote as they please on subsequent ballots.

But already, Trump should be scolding himself, says Mr. O’Connell.

“In my opinion, he has been throwing away the nomination, because he’s been winging it,” he says. “I promise you, when he goes into a land deal, he’s got lawyers and accountants with him, and they dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t.’ Well, you’ve got to be able to do the same thing here” – with the delegate process – “even if the language and system are archaic.”

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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John Kasich Targets Ted Cruz, Not Donald Trump, In Delegate Race

With little hope of catching Donald Trump, Ohio Gov, John Kasich is increasingly taking aim at Ted Cruz, hoping to unseat the Texas senator as establishment Republicans’ go-to alternative in the GOP presidential race.

Mr. Kasich recently labeled Mr. Cruz a “smear artist” in the wake of an ad attacking the Ohio governor in Wisconsin. Ahead of the April 19 New York primary, Mr. Kasich’s campaign also released several ads that specifically targeted Mr. Cruz, hitting the Texas Republican for his line in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses deriding Mr. Trump for embodying “New York values.” 

“He’s trying to break up the Cruz narrative that the party is consolidating behind Cruz to defeat Trump,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He wants to find a way to remain relevant, and when it comes convention time he can say ‘wait a minute — I’m as viable an option as anyone else.’”

Read more from Dave Sherfinski at The Washington Times

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Trump Does Damage Control In Final Pitch To Wisconsin Voters

If Donald Trump is worried about finishing second in Wisconsin's presidential primary, he's refusing to let his supporters catch on.

The Republican front-runner arrived in the Badger State Monday for a triple-hitter, with a campaign rally every few hours, and promised his supporters there would be "a lot of celebrating" Tuesday night, after Wisconsin voters cast their ballots.

But the billionaire's characteristic confidence comes on the heels of his two toughest weeks since voting began and widespread skepticism about his chances of pulling off a victory in Tuesday's nominating contest.

"If Donald Trump doesn't win the Republican nomination, he's going to look back at last week and and frankly, he's not going to have anyone to blame but himself," veteran GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told the Washington Examiner.

Read more from Gabby Morrongiello at The Washington Examiner

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Ted Cruz Fights To Stop Donald Trump’s March With Wisconsin Win

Sen. Ted Cruz enters Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary looking to reset the GOP presidential race, with his team insisting a win there will prove he’s consolidating the Republicans desperate to stop Donald Trump.

But the rest of the map this month appears to favor Mr. Trump as the race moves east to his home state of New York and then expands in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.

Should his Northeast firewall hold, however, Mr. Trump could quickly overcome a Wisconsin setback.

“The month of April should be the month of Trump, and nothing cures bad news like winning,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 campaign.

“If Trump ultimately loses the nomination, he will look back at this week as the turning point of when the bottom started to drop out, and frankly, he will have no one to blame except himself,” Mr. O’Connell said. “But he can right the ship if he pretty much bosses the month of April outside of Wisconsin.”

Read more from Seth McLaughlin at The Washington Times

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2016 Presidential Campaign On Track To Become Most Expensive, Surpassing $1 Billion

The 2016 presidential aspirants and outside groups have already crossed the $1 billion fundraising mark collectively this campaign, blowing by previous election cycles.

At this point in 2012, candidates had collectively raised about $314 million, according to data compiled by the Campaign Finance Institute. In 2008, the last time an incumbent president was approaching the end of his second term, candidates had collectively raised about $812 million.

For Donald Trump, who suggested last August that he might be willing to spend up to $1 billion on his campaign, the new data suggests he could end up needing to do so.

Even with the glut of super PAC spending, however, the actual effect of these outside groups on the primary campaign is still an open question at this point, analysts said.

“I think the jury’s still out on that,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “A super PAC doesn’t work unless you have a candidate and a message too.”

“It almost doesn’t matter if I give you a nuclear weapon and you’ve got the French army behind it,” said Mr. O’Connell.

Mr. O’Connell also pointed out that Mr. Trump, the Republican front-runner, has managed to command unprecedented free media this cycle.

“I think it’s hard to tell what the future is with super PACs because we had this snowplow known as Donald Trump, who had a hundred percent name ID and a really great message,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Now, what if I gave that guy a super PAC? My God, I can see scorched earth from here to Alaska.”

Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times

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Donald Trump Tries To Focus On Serious Talk

Donald Trump’s dire warning that the United States is on the brink of a “massive recession” and his vow to completely eliminate the $19 trillion national debt in just eight years, is being seen as an attempt to establish himself as a serious candidate after a rough week, political analysts say.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Post, the billionaire casino and real estate mogul warned of an impending economic collapse, saying “it’s a terrible time” to invest in the stock market and insisting that he will get rid of the national debt “over a period of eight years.”

Republican political analyst Ford O’Connell said Trump’s bold remarks suggest he’s looking to score political points on an issue that is “near and dear” to mainstream Republican voters as he heads into what is shaping up to be a difficult stretch of primaries, starting with Wisconsin tomorrow, where U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is leading in polls. Trump also is seen as having taken a self-administered beating last week with his remarks suggesting women who get abortions should face punishment if the procedure is outlawed.

“I’m not saying he’s not serious about cutting the national debt, but obviously this is an eye-grabbing plan as he’s trying to get conservatives back in line to vote for him,” O’Connell told the Herald.

“He needed to use an ‘US Weekly’ headline to make sure that he’s going to be able to stave off the bleeding from his projected loss in Wisconsin. He’s got to find a way to reassure the base of the Republican Party that he’s going to fight for the little man — and that’s why you’re hearing this debt plan from him.”

Read more from Owen Boss at the Boston Herald

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Trump Gets Rougher Treatment From Media

Donald Trump is having a rough go of it in the media of late.

The GOP front-runner has for months thrived on the around-the-clock coverage of his nontraditional campaign. But several tough exchanges this week have proved that there’s also a downside to his reliance on earned media.

Reporters and anchors have provoked unforced errors from Trump, fact-checked and challenged his oft-repeated assertions in real-time and rebuked the surrogates who have at times struggled to defend their candidate.

It’s a significant turn of events in a primary that has otherwise been defined by Trump’s mastery of the news cycle. 

Some conservatives believe that the media is all too eager to twist the knife on a candidate that is despised by many political elites.

“Part of this is malice on the media’s part,” said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. “He’s been able to outfox them at every turn, and now that he’s backed into a corner you see some of the latent aggression coming out here as they try and make up for past instances where he’s gotten the better of them.”

“The media gives and the media takes away,” O’Connell said. “It got away from him this week. If Trump loses the nomination, I think this is the week we’ll look back on as when the bottom fell out.” 

Read more form Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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The GOP’s Shadow Delegate Campaign

The GOP presidential contenders are waging a shadow campaign for delegates ahead of their party’s nominating convention this summer. 

Political strategist Ford O'Connell said the campaigns "have separate operations that no one actually hears about" focused on picking off delegates in case no candidate reaches the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination.

John Feehery, a contributor to The Hill, and O'Connell explain the dynamics in an interview with the Hill's Molly K. Hooper.

Watch the video and read more at The Hill

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GOP Nears The Breaking Point

The presidential primary has been a wrenching experience for the GOP so far — and it’s about to get even worse. 

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have all backed away from their pledge to support the party's eventual nominee, foreshadowing a fight at the convention and beyond that could cleave the GOP into warring factions.

Instead of helping to unify the GOP behind a candidate, as the primary process typically does, the race has instead created deep wounds between the candidates that are unlikely to heal.

The antagonism has been heightened by a particularly vicious stretch of campaigning involving allegations of adultery and pictures of the candidates’ wives.

Many Republicans strategists say they don't think Trump will attempt a third-party bid if he fails to win the nomination, given that it’s too late to get on the ballot in most states. 

But should Trump opt for a write-in campaign, it could effectively dash any Republican hopes of beating the Democratic candidate.

"Republicans — the core Republicans — are going to rally around” the nominee no matter who it is, O'Connell insisted.

Still, "the enthusiasm is with Trump. How other candidates might pick that up if they're the nominee is an open question," O'Connell added.

Read more from Jesse Byrnes at The Hill

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Democrats Keep Pressure on Garland Supreme Court Nomination

Democratic senators continue to press their Republican counterparts to hold confirmation hearings and vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, to fill the seat left vacant by the death of arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Even so, Democrats, who are in the minority and must rely on Republicans to advance a nominee, are continuing the fight, arguing against protracted delay in filling a Supreme Court vacancy. 

Washington insiders say the standoff is unlikely to end anytime soon.
 
“Most people don’t know a lot about the Supreme Court,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “But the base of both parties do know how valuable this [fight] is and how important this is."

Read more from Michael Bowman at Voice of America

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