Could Donald Trump Become The Next President Of The United States?

Donald Trump's announcement he was aiming to be President of the United States was greeted as a bit of a joke and with early criticism, but polls suggest he may be the most popular Republican candidate, so how likely is he to succeed? Republican strategist Ford O'Connell discusses...

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Chris Christie’s 2016 Presidential Debut Brings No Bounce As He Risks Missing Fox Debate

After Jeb Bush announced plans to run for president, his standing in a national survey got a 6 percentage-point bump. Donald Trump’s announcement meant an 11-point bump.

Chris Christie? No such bump.

Since New Jersey’s governor made it official June 30, his support has dropped to 2 percent from 4 percent in a nationwide Monmouth University poll with a 5.4 percentage-point error margin. He tied for ninth place with four other potential Republican primary candidates in a Fox News survey released the week before before his announcement.

As Christie on Thursday returns for a 12th time to New Hampshire, the first primary state, poll results put him in danger of missing the cutoff for the initial televised debate. Fox, which is hosting the Aug. 6 event in Cleveland, is limiting the stage to the top 10 candidates in an average of five national surveys.

So far, 15 Republicans have announced they are running for president. At least two more -- Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore -- plan to join in. 

“[Christie's] path to get back to the top tier is simple: He’s got to make that debate stage,” said Ford O’Connell, managing director of Washington communications firm Civic Forum Strategies and former campaign official for Republican John McCain. “If he doesn’t win New Hampshire, he’s dead in the water.”

Read more from Terrance Dopp at Bloomberg Politics

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Incumbent Ron Johnson Runs As Outsider As GOP Defends Senate

Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., faces one of the toughest re-election fights of any Republican in the U.S. Senate for 2016. His race is one of several that will determine whether the GOP keeps its majority.

Johnson's campaign expects the race will be too close to call right up through Election Day, as he faces a rematch against his 2010 opponent, former Sen. Russ Feingold.

Johnson's team wants to prove his 2010 election during a wave of Tea Party-led victories was not a fluke, and for voters in Wisconsin to perceive him as the upstart outsider.

The most determinative factor in the Wisconsin Senate race, however, may have nothing to do with Johnson's tenure in office. His chances are inextricably tied to the 2016 presidential campaign, and the GOP nominee in particular.

Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker, announced his campaign for president on Monday night and the positive attention he receives could boost Johnson and other Republicans' chances at home.

Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist, said he believes Democrats hope Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign will drag Feingold over the finish line.

"If Clinton is running plus 15 in Wisconsin, Ron Johnson is toast regardless of how great he is," O'Connell said. "Walker will have a tougher time winning in Wisconsin than Johnson would… but their fates would be tied together [if they are both on the ballot]."

Read more from Ryan Lovelace at The Washington Examiner

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Is A Partnership Emerging Between Trump And Cruz?

Are Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump a dynamic duo or mortal enemies in the 2016 presidential race?

The pair of candidates were scheduled to meet behind closed doors Wednesday in New York City and Republican strategists are guessing about the nature of their relationship.

Since launching his presidential bid in mid-June, Trump has gone from reality TV star to GOP front-runner and developed the same anti-establishment appeal as Cruz on the campaign trail.

Cruz's Republican confidantes recently told the Washington Post that the Tea Party senator thinks the two candidates' overlapping messages can serve them well in the GOP's crowded field of White House contenders.

However, some GOP strategists disagree. They argue that Trump has all but replaced Cruz as the anti-establishment candidate.

Former McCain campaign aide Ford O'Connell says that kind of relatability has allowed Trump to steal Cruz's spotlight "particularly among white working class workers who are looking for a fighter."

However, O'Connell notes that Cruz is "not blind to this at all."

"He is providing guarded compliments to Trump because he knows that the Trump balloon is going to bust and he wants to ensure that he's there to take his place when it does," O'Connell told the Examiner.

"Both men are battling for the same set of core supporters and at this stage, if Trump does eventually bow out, he would most likely support Cruz," O'Connell said.

Despite The Donald's unparalleled personality and strong performance in the polls, O'Connell says Cruz could still benefit in the long run and that the meeting could be Cruz's attempt to cozy up to the billionaire business mogul in case Trump doesn't go much further in the race.

"Trump's rise could be beneficial to Cruz because the question is: How long is Trump going to last as a candidate?" O'Connell said.

Read more from Gabby Morrongiello at The Washington Examiner

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2016 GOP Presidential Contenders Embrace Criminal Justice Reform

Republican presidential candidates are turning their sights on criminal justice reform, indicating that the issue has broken into the mainstream conservative movement as the party seeks inroads with minority voters.

Conservatives have been gravitating toward the criminal justice reform movement for some time, but the fact that the GOP contenders have zeroed in on it as a potent political issue is a sea change moment for reform activists, as well as those eager to see Republicans expand the party’s reach.

In addition, the issue could be an in for Republicans as they court the African-American and Hispanic voters that have traditionally been a stronghold of the Democratic Party.

President Obama won 93 percent of the black vote and 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012. Obama noted in an address on criminal justice reform on Tuesday that it’s these minority groups that are disproportionately affected by the nation’s ballooning prison population.

“America’s demographics are changing at lighting speed, so Republicans are going to have to court minority voters, period,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “This is a smart way to do it. Will it move the needle on the 2016 electoral map? I don’t know. But at least there’s a realization that we can’t win the White House relying solely on white voters.”

Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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Unions: This time, We’ll Defeat Scott Walker

Labor groups are gearing up for another fight with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) now that he has entered the presidential race.

After a failed recall bid in Wisconsin, unions are determined to make sure Walker never sets foot in the Oval Office. But organized labor’s opposition could play well for Walker in the GOP primary because it appeals to his conservative base.

Some of the biggest unions are still formulating their plan of attack against Walker, even as they signal they will dip into their coffers to go after him. The strongest signal came from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

Shortly after taking over as governor in 2011, Walker signed legislation that severely weakened the collective bargaining rights of public sector employees such as teachers. Under the bill, state and local government workers — excluding police officers and firefighters — can only bargain for raises up to the point of inflation. Unions argue this move holds down wages throughout the state.

This led unions to attempt to recall Walker in 2012, which he ultimately survived.

Walker again targeted unions earlier this year after he was reelected, this time going after private sector unions. He signed right-to-work legislation that gives workers the choice to not join a union even if they indirectly benefit from the union’s collective bargaining agreements.

The back-and-forth with unions will only help raise Walker’s profile among potential Republican voters, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“This is political gold for Scott Walker in the Republican primary,” O’Connell said. “The fact that unions are attacking him and that he even won a recall election shows conservative voters that he’s a fighter who doesn’t back down and gets results.”

Read more from Tim Devaney at The Hill

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Scott Walker, Staunch Foe Of EPA Rules, Seeks Presidency

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who has largely refrained from wading into the climate change debate, said July 13 he would enter the crowded field for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. 

In many ways, Walker's views on national environment and energy policies, such as his concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan, his opposition to a new national ground-level ozone standard and his support for broad energy development, mirror that of other Republican contenders.

Walker, who announced his candidacy July 10 on Twitter, is the 15th Republican to enter the primaries to become the next president of the U.S.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who advised Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on energy issues during his 2008 presidential run, told Bloomberg BNA the nuanced shift from Walker on ethanol issues likely stemmed from the fact the Wisconsin governor feels he needs to win the Iowa caucuses to remain competitive in the Republican primary.

“I think he is adjusting himself [on biofuels] to make himself more palatable in Iowa,” O'Connell said, noting that the Republican field is “all singing from the hymn book” on most other energy issues.

Read more from Rachel Leven and Anthony Adragna at Bloomberg BNA

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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Touts Self As A Leader Who Beat Long Odds

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker officially entered the crowded 2016 presidential race yesterday trying to stop a surging Donald Trump, even as the New York developer was lifted once again by threats allegedly made on Twitter by the son of escaped Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

“This is going to help bolster Trump for the moment, no question about it,” said GOP operative Ford O’Connell of the Chapo effect. “Trump is a fighter. ... This plays into that persona. ... The news is falling in his lap.”

Chapo’s Twitter handle, reportedly managed by his son, posted expletive-laden threats on Sunday against Trump, who has railed against Mexican illegal immigrant criminals, specifically “rapists,” pouring over the border.

Unfazed, Trump used Chapo’s recent escape from prison to make his argument. “When will people, and the media, start to apologize to me for my statement, ‘Mexico is sending....’, which turned out to be true? El Chapo,” Trump tweeted yesterday.

Walker had hoped to stand out from the pack by waiting until nearly all other candidates had entered the GOP race before jumping in. While Trump is still making headlines, Walker at least won’t have to share the spotlight with any other campaign launches this week.

Read more from Chris Cassidy at The Boston Herald

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Scott Walker Enters GOP Field To High Expectations And Doubts

Gov. Scott Walker will become the final top-tier candidate to join the GOP battle for the White House when he announces his bid from Wisconsin on Monday.

Walker enters the race as the favorite to win Iowa’s caucuses and with high polling numbers and plenty of grassroots enthusiasm.

He is a natural fit for the Iowa contest as a social and fiscal conservative from an adjacent state. And his appeal came into sharp focus when he captivated an Iowa audience in January with the tale of his battle against Wisconsin’s labor unions.

But there are plenty of doubts, too, when it comes to whether Walker can be the GOP nominee.

Walker trails Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in polls in New Hampshire, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who Walker has said would be a good vice presidential candidate on his ticket — is believed to be setting up a firewall in South Carolina.

That raises the importance for Walker in winning Iowa and then bottling that momentum.

“He has to win or show well in Iowa,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “If he doesn’t, he’s in real trouble.”

Republicans laud Walker as a candidate with cross-party appeal, saying he has the potential to draw on Tea Party conservatives, social conservatives and establishment-minded Republicans. 

His fight against public sector unions has been front and center in his campaign.

“It’s got to be the cornerstone of his pitch,” said O’Connell. “It’s got to be his bloody rallying cry that the liberals came after him three times with everything they had and he never wavered. “

Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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Would Scott Walker Win Wisconsin In 2016?

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker won three gubernatorial elections in four years, a fact that he repeats often in his early stump speeches across the country. But some Wisconsinites note that such victories did not coincide with a presidential election, and they openly wonder whether Walker would win his home state.

Walker's recall election victory in 2012 happened on a separate ballot and date from the presidential election.

Wisconsin has not gone red in a presidential election since Ronald Reagan won re-election in 1984, and the state's governor may give the GOP its best chance of victory in 2016.

But Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist and veteran of the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign, said if any Republican is going to win the Badger State it would be Scott Walker.

Walker seems to be developing a path to victory that leads directly through the Midwest, but it still may not be enough.

"If he wants to win the nomination, he has to win Iowa," O'Connell said. "[But] he's going to have to find a way to take his midwestern blue-collar message and somehow resonate in the south. … Scott Walker needs to have a find a way beyond the Midwest to win."

Read more from Ryan Lovelace at The Washington Examiner

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