Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump have strengthened their grips on their parties' presidential nominations, racking up wins in key states on Super Tuesday, the primary season's most important day of voting.
On the Republican side, Trump took Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and Massachusetts. Senator Ted Cruz took his home state of Texas as well as Oklahoma and Alaska. Florida Senator Marco Rubio picked up his first win of the primary season in Minnesota.
The results were not surprising. Opinion polls had showed Trump and Clinton with large leads in Super Tuesday states and nationally. In their victory speeches, each candidate focused on the other, rather than their primary opponents.
Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said Trump came out on top on the Republican side, and is now the "clear prohibitive frontrunner."
"Donald Trump won big tonight," O'Connell told VOA, adding that the billionaire businessman may actually benefit from losing several contests to his rivals. "His greatest ally is a divided GOP field, so all around it's nearly perfect night for Trump," he said.
Read more from William Gallo at Voice of America
With Super Tuesday returns coming in, Republican leaders are doing the same thing as everyone else — waiting to see if, or more likely, how thoroughly, businessman Donald Trump trounces the rest of the GOP field. And for those elected officials waiting to decide their endorsements, Tuesday's results could provide valuable data to help calculate if any path forward remains for the so-called establishment to stop Trump from winning the nomination.
Endorsements have typically been a reliable predictor for nominations, under the assumption that politicians want to go with a winner and help steer a candidate to the top. This year, however, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is leading in endorsements from fellow officeholders, but has yet to win a single state.
How Super Tuesday shakes out could shift the converstation, political analysts said. And in a race where endorsements have lacked clout so far, Trump — a brash outsider who has only recently gained some backers after being scorned or at best tolerated by the party — could be the sole candidate to pick up undecided Republican leaders.
"The more Trump wins, psychologically, the easier it is to bring him into this tent," said Ford O’Connell, a political analyst and Republican strategist who worked on the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign.
"It really depends on what happens today," O'Connell said. "Nothing in this cycle has gone according to script."
Read more from Tim Marchin at International Business Times
Donations continue to flow in for presidential hopefuls as they head into Super Tuesday, the single most important presidential contest in the 2016 election. For Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s campaign it’s a moment to seize on “Marcomentum” and win key primary states on Tuesday with 595 delegates up for grabs in the GOP race.
“If you win a state on Super Tuesday there is a possibility that you will win Florida, if Marco wins Florida then he is still in the game,” said Ford O’Connell, Republican strategist and former advisor for the 2008 McCain-Palin campaign.
He says a lot is riding on Rubio’s candidacy for the Republican party now that establishment candidate, Jeb Bush is out of the race.
“A lot of the Bush supporters have realized that Rubio gives them the best chance to win, in terms of beating Trump in a one on one. I believe if Rubio puts up a ‘W’ and certainly holds on to Florida, then you will see a whole bunch of people supporting him,” said O’Connell.
Read more from Elizabeth Chmurak at Fox Business
The first day of multiple-state voting looms large in a wild presidential race after early states trimmed the field and the brash billionaire and his army of outsider voters are positioned to send panic through the Republican establishment by tightening his grip on the party's nomination.
A CNN/ORC national poll out Monday shows Donald Trump in a dominant lead, getting 49% of the Republican primary vote -- 30 percentage points ahead of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side, Clinton tops Sanders 55% to 38%.
The contests, across 12 states, herald several weeks of nationwide skirmishes that will be decisive in determining who gets to face off for the White House in the fall.
Republican leaders and operatives, meanwhile, are wondering whether the blitz against Trump by Rubio at CNN's debate in Houston on Thursday came too late to halt the billionaire businessman.
"I am not sure throwing the whole kitchen sink is going to make much difference in the trajectory of the race," said Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist not currently working for any presidential candidate. "Political scientists are going to wonder for years why they didn't go after him a lot earlier."
Read more from Stephen Collinson at CNN
A general election showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump promises not only to be a political cage match for the ages, but also an ultimate battle of style against substance, political pundits predict.
“Trump is selling a vision,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “Hillary Clinton is selling a certain set of policies and trying to convince certain people to stick with them. The only way to beat Trump is to go after his vision.”
Don’t expect Trump, whose bombastic and often bruising style has drawn controversy as well as rising poll numbers, to suddenly turn into a policy wonk and engage in a debate of ideas. At the same time, Clinton has to shatter the image of Trump as the outsider hero who can deliver Washington from the establishment.
The fight has already begun.
Read more from Kimberly Atkins at the Boston Herald
Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are doubling down on their attacks on Donald Trump, slamming everything from the brash billionaire’s business record to his spray tan, and analysts say it might be their only hope of toppling the front-runner as Super Tuesday nears.
“They’re being motivated at this moment by desperation,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, “because time is running out in the voting window.”
The attacks escalated yesterday after the gloves came off during Thursday’s GOP debate in South Carolina, when the two senators piled on insults with a new fervor, blasting the failed “Trump University” and accusing the business mogul of employing people living here illegally.
O’Connell said, abandoning the policy attacks and instead focusing on the linchpin of Trump’s campaign: his worth as a savvy businessman.
Read more from Lindsay Kalter at the Boston Herald
The next several weeks will be crucial for U.S. Republican presidential candidates as the primary season intensifies with "Super Tuesday" coming next week.
Outspoken billionaire business tycoon Donald Trump is now the undisputed front-runner after a string of wins. Analysts now admitted that they had underestimated Trump's unique ability to dominate the news cycle and his appeal to rank-and-file Republican voters who are frustrated with Washington's political elite.
Trump just clinched a landslide victory in Nevada earlier the week in addition to his wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina, though he was just six months ago predicted to fade out quickly.
Trump has been able to tap into Americans' frustration over the economy, jobs and foreign policy like no other candidate, and could well clinch the nomination, experts said.
"He's on a strong path to the nomination," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua. "They've ignored him so long that he's become his own hurricane on the campaign trail."
While many analysts maintain that the game is not yet over, Trump's winning streak underscores a candidate who has constantly beaten analysts' predictions.
Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua
If Republicans opposed to Donald Trump’s presidential nomination can’t slow him down by mid-March, they’ll have one final, desperate card to play.
It’s called Florida.
By the time the Sunshine State holds its GOP primary March 15, Trump still won’t have the 1,237 delegates needed to lock up the nomination. Even if he wins every nomination contest over the next two and a half weeks — in 19 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia — he'll be more than 200 delegates short.
Florida is the largest of five prizes up for grabs on March 15. (Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio also hold primaries that day.) A total 358 delegates are at stake that day, with Florida accounting for 99. Whichever GOP candidate finishes first gets all 99.
Such a sweep would give Trump an aura of inevitability that would create its own momentum, said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist in Washington who has a house in Naples, Fla.
“The more Trump wins, the more likely he is to be the nominee (because) the more psychologically people are going to think he’s going to win,” O’Connell said.
Read more from Ledyard King, at USA Today
Businessman Donald Trump is seen as a “complete wild card” by many in his own party on environmental and energy issues if elected president, while Democrats say his vague public statements in those areas nevertheless show his presidency would be a disaster.
Trump, now the Republican front-runner after three consecutive primary wins, has described climate change as a Chinese conspiracy and promised deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency if elected but also has avoided commenting on specific environmental policies such as the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.
“I'm not sure anyone really knows what he'd do on the environment,” Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on energy issues during his 2008 presidential run, told Bloomberg BNA. “He's going to look at it from the best interest of the American job market. His default will be to look at it from that perspective.”
Read more from Anthony Adragna at Bloomberg BNA
Sen. Marco Rubio unleashed a barrage of attacks on Republican front-runner Donald Trump at a rally Friday, renewing claims he made during Thursday's debate and offering some new ones.
"It's time to pull his mask off so that people can see what we're dealing with here," Rubio said, calling Trump's campaign "a con job."
"What we are dealing with is a con artist...He has spent his entire career sticking it to little guy."
The negative and contradictory aspects of Trump's background have been reported on before, but his opponents in the 2016 race have rarely challenged him so directly on them.
There is some truth and some exaggeration behind many of the labels pundits, politicians, and Trump himself have tried to apply to him, but voters ultimately see Trump as they want to see him.
Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said Rubio's line of attack is good start, but "it's not going to dislodge Trump supporters." To win, Trump's opponents need to undermine his vision and the whole idea that he is a successful businessman who will stand up for the average American.
Pointing to spikes in Google searches on topics like Trump University and Polish workers after the debate, he said this probably was new information for many voters. Rubio will now need more examples and riffs on the theme to make it stick, though.
Read more Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group