When Mitt Romney's effective tax rate was released in 2012, people were shocked. The Republican nominee for president made $13.7 million in 2011, but he only paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent. And just one year earlier, the average American household paid a higher rate than the ultrawealthy Romney at 18.1 percent.
Over the weekend, in was a peculiar step for a Republican, presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who isn't exactly shy about his wealth, issued a press release exclaiming in all capital letters that he was worth $10 billion. He said he wanted to eliminate the capital gains loophole that has been used to help rich people like Romney snag low tax rates. The top percentage tax rate for capital gains is 20 percent, compared to 40 percent for top ordinary income.
"The hedge fund guys didn't build this country. These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky," Trump said. "It's the wrong thing. These guys are getting away with murder. I want to lower the rates for the middle class."
But what exactly would Trump's capital gains play mean for his own massive piles of cash? Does he benefit from such tax loopholes, and if he does, does that matter for his campaign?
"This is populist gold on the campaign trail. He's trying to pull in as many populist voters in the Republican party as possible. This way, he gets to have a discussion about this as well and make a point that 'Oh, yeah, I can't be bought,' " said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on Republican John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008.
"He defies political gravity at every turn," O'Connell said. "At this stage, I don't see the risk for him in it right now. Obviously somebody could try to use it against him, but right now everything ricochets off of him."
Read more from Clark Mindock at International Business Times
The huge field of Republican presidential contenders is helping Donald Trump maintain a big lead in the race for the GOP presidential nomination — and Trump's position makes it less likely candidates will drop out, Republicans say.
Buoyed by super-PACs, many presidential candidates have more money than in previous cycles to handle long campaigns. A single "sugar-daddy" donor can keep a struggling campaign afloat.
Many of the candidates also believe that Trump — who enjoys a double-digit lead over the 16 other big names in the race — will falter, and that they need to stay in the race to be his successor.
“As long as Trump is in the race, most of these candidates won’t see any reason to get out,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
Many Republicans still believe Trump will not become the party's nominee. They argue that he’s benefitting from a media frenzy, and that large swaths of the conservative electorate would never even consider voting for him.
Furthermore, Republicans say Trump’s past support for liberal causes, and his penchant for controversial remarks, will ultimately sink him.
And with huge sums of money flowing into super-PACs, the candidates will have the financial means to stick around.
“In the past you’d get out because you run out of money. That’s changed,” O’Connell said. “Now you just need a small strike force of five or 10 people and enough money to book a coach ticket on Southwest. You can sit back and rely on the super-PAC to land the haymaker.”
Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill
Jeb Bush isn't pulling punches anymore when it comes to Donald Trump.
The former Florida governor has delicately danced around the billionaire businessman in the 2016 presidential primary so far. But the gloves came off this week when Bush called out Trump as a closet Democrat. He was trying to stunt Trump's rise while attempting to recover his own political mojo.
"What Jeb is desperately trying to do is find his swagger right now," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said. "The knock against Jeb is that he's low voltage and not willing to fight. The best way to shake those perceptions it to engage against the person who is in the media on a 24/7 loop."
O'Connell agreed. He pointed out that even if this new approach is one that's uncomfortable for Bush, it's necessary.
"In a lot of elections, being the studious one would have worked," he said, "but Trump has flipped the script."
Read more from Jessica Taylor at NPR
POWER PLAY: CADDYSHACK CAMPAIGN
Jeb Bush engaged in a political donnybrook with rival Donald Trump this week. Is this smart strategy or a potential minefield for Bush? Republican Ford O’Connell and Democrat Brad Woodhouse join Chris Stirewalt to hash out the pros and cons. WATCH HERE.
POWER PLAY: A GO FOR JOE?
A recent boost in the polls adds to the drumbeat as Joe Biden mulls over a run for the White House. Republican Ford O’Connell and Democrat Brad Woodhouse join Chris Stirewalt to discuss the implications of a Biden bid. WATCH HERE.
Read more from Chris Stirewalt at Fox News First
While Donald Trump gets most of the attention, he's not the only Republican experiencing a summer surge. Ben Carson is seeing some of his best poll numbers.
A recent Fox News poll had Carson in second place nationally at 12 percent, behind Trump at 25 percent and ahead of Ted Cruz at 10 percent. But can he sustain this momentum as the primary calendar draws closer? "I didn't expect this quick of a trajectory, and I certainly don't want to become the front-runner this quickly because you don't want to peak too early, so were actually in a pretty good spot right now," the 63-year-old retired neurosurgeon told a Des Moines Register reporter.
Carson and Trump both appeal to disgruntled voters who are tired of the system. "Carson could definitely be beneficiary of a Trump implosion," political analyst and Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said. "But he can't count on that. But right now he has to gain the news cycle and do well on debate performances and capitalize on the media cycle."
"He's shown himself to be a far more durable candidate than many people would have thought but the again there's' been nothing logical about this primary so far," O'Connell said. "What's going for him it`s that he's seen as the most likeable and the most principled candidate so far."
Read more from Ariel Cohen at The Washington Examiner
Republican front-runner Donald Trump, fresh off a new national poll showing him soar to a double-digit lead over Jeb Bush, is putting pressure on the former Florida governor to jump-start his faltering campaign, as both White House hopefuls storm through New Hampshire today.
“If you had told me a couple months ago that Donald Trump would be leading the field by double digits, I would have rolled my eyes,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “But if you had told me he’d be viewed more favorably than Bush, I probably would have had myself committed.”
A CNN poll released yesterday shows Trump with an 11-point lead over the rest of the GOP pack.
Trump had the support of 24 percent of registered Republicans surveyed, well ahead of Bush at 13 percent and Ben Carson at 9 percent. Both Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had 8 percent.
Trump also holds a higher favorability rating (38 percent) than Bush (35 percent) among registered voters, but both men’s unfavorables are even higher, with Trump’s at 58 percent and Bush’s at 57 percent.
Bush needs to up his game, beginning at today’s education summit, said O’Connell.
“He’s not exactly lighting people’s hair on fire,” said O’Connell of Bush. “He’s just trying to run an error-free campaign and in doing so, he’s not energizing anyone. ... He wants to go in there and ... convince people he has solutions to improve education and that he’s the leader and the adult to do it.”
Read more from Chris Cassidy at The Boston Herald
Republican National Committee convened an “autopsy” of the results to determine how to improve the Party’s chances in 2016. One of the clearest findings was that the GOP’s relationship with the Hispanic portion of the electorate was poor and getting worse, due in large part to a perceived anti-Hispanic bias articulated thorough draconian immigration enforcement proposals.
The answer seemed obvious: moderate the tone, recognize the bad feelings created by anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric, and produce humane policies that can be sold to the GOP base without alienating the nation’s fastest-growing segment of voters.
That, of course, didn’t account for the rise of Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and former reality television star whose virulent attacks on illegal immigrants as rapists and criminals have sent him rocketing to the top of the polls in the GOP presidential primary.
Republican candidates had no way of avoiding the issue of illegal immigration because of its importance to many in the Party’s base, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. But latching on to highly controversial positions that put them at odds with many in the Hispanic community was probably not their preferred method.
“This is certainly not the way they wanted to have this discussion and they certainly didn’t want Donald Trump driving the bus on this issue, but all that’s out the window,” O’Connell said. He balked at the idea that there is some sort of civil war going on within the Party. Largely because there are not two clear sides.
“Not sure there are two camps,” O’Connell said. “Certainly there’s a Trump camp. But among the others there may be multiple camps.”
For instance, while Jeb Bush appears to occupy the point on the Republican spectrum furthest from Trump, O’Connell said, “I have a feeling that Rubio will be looking for something that’s a little more in the political middle ground between Bush and Trump.”
“Trump,” said O’Connell, “has forced their hand.”
Read more from Rob Garver at The Fiscal Times
A recent slump in the polls illustrates the problems Hillary Clinton's campaign has with the public on "authenticity and trustworthiness," a political strategist tells The Hill.
There’s a reason the Democratic presidential front-runner has seen declining public ratings on honesty and favorability, GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said.
"What they're having right now is a trustworthy problem and authenticity problem,” O'Connell said in an interview with The Hill's Molly K. Hooper.
“Much of her problems stem from her own self-inflicted wounds,” he added. “The [Clinton] Foundation, the server, her inability to take stands on key issues in the general election. ... So those are her two biggest problems right now: authenticity and trustworthiness.”
Watch the video and read more from Molly Hooper at The Hill
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton's recent struggles on the campaign trail may be the opening Vice President Joe Biden needs to jump into the 2016 primary, a political strategist tells The Hill.
"Four months ago, talks of a Joe Biden presidential candidacy ... I would have laughed at you. Today, I think there’s a window for Joe Biden," Ford O'Connell, former presidential adviser to John McCain's 2008 campaign, said in an interview with The Hill's Molly K. Hooper.
O'Connell, a GOP strategist, notes that Biden needs to paint himself as "the heir to President Obama's legacy" in order to raise money and create a strong organization.
Watch the video and read more from The Hill
A few weeks ago, Ted Cruz’s calculus for declining to attack Donald Trump seemed obvious: Trump was rallying exactly the core anti-immigration base Cruz had long cultivated, so by sticking out Trump’s inevitable fall, the Texas senator would be the obvious alternative for those followers.
But now that it looks like nothing will knock Teflon Trump out of the race anytime soon, Cruz is running the risk that Trump will ultimately usurp Cruz's brand, his base of support, and the rationale for his entire candidacy.
Since Trump jumped into the race, Cruz has resisted opportunities to criticize him, telling reporters he would avoid “Republican-on-Republican violence.”
The remark was perhaps Cruz's clearest hint as to what he was betting on: that if and when Trump does leave race, his supporters will head straight towards Cruz's direction.
“Maybe Cruz gets them by December, maybe Cruz has to wait until the Southern state strategy," Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, told TPM. "Cruz is the most logical choice, but then again, there has been nothing logical about this race so far."
There may be a time when Trump crosses a line with the Texas senator as well. An equal opportunity birther, Trump once questioned whether Cruz's Canadian roots disqualified him from the presidency.
“Cruz is leaving his options as open as possible here," O’Connell said. "If he takes a stand and turns his people off, he finds himself in ‘what could have should have been,’ but if you have to take a stand on Donald Trump further on down the line, he still has the option."
Read more from Tierney Sneed at Talking Points Memo