Trump, Cruz Could Cost GOP Control Of Congress, Republicans Fear

Republicans in Washington are terrified of the peril Donald Trump poses to their grip on the Senate and, increasingly, the House, where a wave election could cripple their historic majority. Yet it’s hardly clear that nominating Ted Cruz would save them from the Trump debacle they fear.

Here are the options facing down-ballot Republicans:

A. Run with front-runner Trump, whose unfavorable rating hit 70 percent in a recent national poll.

B. Run with Texas Sen. Cruz, who wants to return to the gold standard, patrol Muslim neighborhoods, and ban abortion in rape and incest cases.

C. Run away.

“Part of the problem for Republicans is that many of the swing seats in the Senate are in presidential battleground states,” foreshadowing long coattails from the top of the ticket, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. Polarization has sent split-ticket voting to a 50-year low, he said, “so it’s going to be very hard if you are Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire to retain your seat if Hillary Clinton runs five points better than whoever the Republicans put up.”

Republican strategist O’Connell said Trump flouts so many GOP orthodoxies that on issues such as trade he often sounds closer to Democratic populist Bernie Sanders, giving him potentially more appeal than Cruz to swing voters.

Read more from Carolyn Lochhead at The San Francisco Chronicle

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Is #NeverTrump Working?

How much credit does #NeverTrump deserve for Donald Trump's struggles cobbling together a majority of Republican delegates?

Every setback Trump endures — losses in Iowa, Utah and Wisconsin, for example — is balanced by wins that keep him the clear Republican front-runner. But the man who wrote The Art of the Deal is having trouble closing the deal with GOP voters.

Acknowledging Trump's success using big rallies and earned media to build his popular appeal and win primaries, Republican strategist Ford O'Connell nevertheless told the Washington Examiner, "[Trump] would have a lot more delegates right now if his organization was better at dotting its I's and crossing its T's."

Since the field has winnowed, Ted Cruz has enjoyed more success capturing delegates at caucuses and state conventions even if he has been unable to come close to overtaking Trump in the official count.

Read more from Jim Antle at The Washington Examiner

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Megyn Kelly-Donald Trump Detente Shrewd Move For All

Unpredictable presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s bid to bury the hatchet with Fox News and Megyn Kelly is a shrewd strategic move as he rumbles toward the general election — but it also is likely to prove to be a big ratings boost for the cable powerhouse.

But yesterday, amid rumors of secret talks between the candidate and the network, news emerged that olive branches had been extended and accepted.

The startling turnaround suggests changes are underway in Trump’s campaign — developments that bode well for his bid to win over women and Fox’s vast conservative audience, further isolating the GOP establishment that remains deeply at odds with the mercurial billionaire.

Ford O’Connell, a former presidential campaign adviser for U.S. Sen. John McCain and Sarah Palin, said, “It’s clear that some of the changes in Trump’s campaign are starting to work because Trump realizes he could very well win the nomination.

“But if he wants to win the general election he has to overcome the perception that he’s hostile to women,” O’Connell told me. “And that starts by burying the hatchet with Megyn Kelly.”

If Trump can “convincingly make peace” with Kelly, O’Connell said, then he’s going to “take an arrow out of the quiver of a lot of his opponents, including Hillary Clinton.”

But it can’t stop with Kelly. “He’s going to have to go further, but that’s a very high-profile situation that could help him move in the right direction,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jessica Heslam at the Boston Herald

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Paul Ryan Shoots Down Presidential Bid Prospects – For Now

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s coy cat-and-mouse game — trying to look as presidential as possible, then publicly bristling at any notion that he’s aspiring to the office — seemed to come to an abrupt halt yesterday.

Or did it?

But yesterday, Ryan took to national television to express shock, absolute shock, that while he was touring the Middle East last week — bolstering his foreign policy credentials, maybe? — people actually dared to discuss whether all this has been a thinly veiled signal to the GOP establishment that he’s ready to jump in if no winner emerges after the delegates’ first convention vote.

Ryan and GOP establishment members thrilled by the possibility of the House Speaker as savior probably also realized such a move could spur the worst-case scenario: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz joining forces to urge the delegates to block any late-game outside play for the nomination.

“As much as they don’t like each other, that would be the best move in the history of man,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Kimberley Atkins at the Boston Herald

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Outsider Status Turns Against Trump, Sanders

Being political outsiders is suddenly not good news for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Trump and Sanders have dominated the political cycle with unconventional presidential campaigns that have shaken up both parties.

Trump is the GOP front-runner and has a large delegate lead over Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), while Sanders has won eight of the last nine Democratic contests.

Yet a little more than three months before the political conventions begin, both are facing serious challenges.

Cruz has outmaneuvered Trump for delegates in Louisiana and Colorado and threatens to take the GOP nomination away from his rival at the convention in Cleveland.

“There’s a reason why you don’t go total outsider — because at the end of the day, it’s the establishment who writes the rules,” said GOP strategist Ford O'Connell, who worked on Sen. John McCain’s (Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign.

“This lust for outsider politics requires insiders,” he added.

Read more from Ben Kamisar at The Hill

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Outsider Campaigns Seek Inside Track

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are confronting the same paradox: the fate of their insurgent campaigns built on scorn for the political establishment rests on how well they play the inside game.

For Trump, the challenge is shifting from a strategy of piling up state primary wins to one that also takes into account states that award delegates in a more intricate fashion. Trump's organizational weakness in that type of contest was underscored Saturday when he was swept by Ted Cruz in the Colorado Republican convention.

Sanders, meanwhile, has to win not only more pledged delegates but also more superdelegates -- party officials and other elites who can vote however they choose -- if he wants to take the Democratic battle for the White House to the convention floor.

Trump is already making the case that the system is inherently unfair and is a symptom of the insider politics practiced by distant elites that disenfranchises grass-roots voters like those who have flocked to his campaign.

"The nuts and bolts of presidential politics is an archaic language and very few people understand it. Outsiders need insiders to be successful," said Republican political strategist Ford O'Connell. "If you want to crack the Da Vinci code, you need insiders."

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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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