Opinions Split On Trump's Chance To Clinch Republican Nomination For White House Race

Just a few months ago, U.S. billionaire mogul Donald Trump was dismissed by critics on both sides of the isle when he announced his bid for Republican Party (GOP) nomination for the 2016 presidential elections. But now, opinions are split on if he can clinch the nomination.

Trump continues to dominate the crowded field of Republican candidates, in first place with 23 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

The in-your-face candidate is far ahead of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who was once considered a shoo-in for the GOP nomination but is lagging behind in fifth place, at 8 percent.

Experts note Trump is verbally agile on camera and is always ready with a quick response and pithy soundbite, often making bold -- and frequently controversial -- statements that grab media headlines.

"I think a lot of people miss the sort of brilliance of what Trump is doing. He kind of toots his own horn. He exaggerates. It works because fact-checking him is a full time job," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua, adding that Trump could take home the nomination.

O'Connell added that "low information voters" -- those who spend only a few minutes a month researching candidates and their policies -- "are not tuned in at all, or they're overly emotional. So he just continues to win."

"It's sort of that celebrity culture that's allowing him to get away with saying '(just) believe me' with everything," he said, referring to what is often the public's tendency toward believing stars without question.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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Kevin McCarthy’s Withdrawal Leaves House Republicans In Disarray

Rep. Kevin McCarthy left his party flummoxed about where to turn next for a leader, and the rest of Washington stunned by the chaos within Congress’ ruling party, when he removed himself from the running Thursday for House speaker.

In a closed-door session originally scheduled as a coronation for the 50-year-old Bakersfield Republican, McCarthy told colleagues that he is “not the one” to unite the party, despite having more than 200 of the 247-member Republican caucus behind him, the largest GOP majority since 1928. 

Even with their stranglehold on the House, Republicans have demonstrated time and again their difficulty knitting the party’s uncompromising Tea Party faction, numbering roughly 40 to 50 members, into a governing majority. 

That conservative bloc, operating under various groupings, including one called the Freedom Caucus, does not have enough support to elect a leader, but does have enough to keep anyone they oppose from holding the job.

Republican analyst Ford O’Connell agreed that the mayhem could damage Republicans next year. “They have to resolve it,” O’Connell said, or else “the majority could come into play in 2016. There’s a lot on the line.”

Read more from Carolyn Lochhead at San Francisco Chronicle

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Marco Rubio vs. Jeb Bush Is Going To Be Nasty, Brutish, And Long

The veneer of friendship between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio is beginning to peel. Bush has started taking swipes at his former protégé, who has emerged as a serious threat to his presidential aspirations as a fellow establishment candidate who appeals to the same pool of donors seeking to keep the likes of Donald Trump and Ben Carson off the November 2016 ballot.

But there's another reason the recent Bush-Rubio skirmishes are likely to become a protracted, all-out war. And it all comes down to their home state, Florida. Winning the Sunshine State primary will be critical for either Rubio or Bush to lock up the Republican presidential nomination. That's why the worst recent news for the Bush campaign was probably not a Pew Research poll putting Bush at just 4 percent nationally, but a poll released a week earlier, which, for the first time, showed him trailing Rubio in Florida.

"I absolutely think [Florida] is going to be make or break for both Jeb and Marco," says Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. "Between Bush and Rubio, this is where the rubber meets the road."

"Unless Super Tuesday goes all to one candidate…I see it as dragging exactly to March 15, because that's when we start our winner-take-all," O'Connell predicts. "March 15: That's when we really start separating the contenders from the pretenders."

Read more from Pema Levy at Mother Jones

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Can Hillary Clinton Delete Her Past?

More than a month before the April launch of her White House run, Hillary Clinton stood before a swarm of reporters at the United Nations headquarters and dealt with questions about her use of private emails for official business. It is an issue that has dogged her candidacy ever since.

Few doubted until this summer that Clinton, with vast institutional and popular support and little competition, would cruise to her coronation as the Democratic nominee for the presidency.

But many of her statements from those first defensive days have been proven false by a steady stream revelations from three congressional committees and four federal agencies investigating her use of a private email server. Just as damaging have been dozens of lawsuits pursued under the Freedom of Information Act, which have shown gaps in the batches of emails Clinton gave the State Department last year.

Despite raising more than four times as much campaign cash than her closest opponent, Clinton has seen her lead in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire either shrink or vaporize entirely under the media scrutiny that has followed every twist in the email controversy.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said the controversy is "just something that is never going to go away."

"The email situation doesn't really bother Democrats. What bothers Democrats about the whole situation is that she just fumbles it every single time," O'Connell said. "It's the optics of it. Every time she says something, it becomes untrue three weeks later."

O'Connell said the email story will dissipate only if the drip-drip of new information suddenly stopped and the facts were allowed to stand as they are today. He said there is also a possibility that Republicans, as the main drivers of the scandal narrative, could overplay their hand.

As O'Connell noted, the absence of new information and the aggressive repetition of existing information could test voters' appetite for the truth in the email scandal. From IRS targeting to Islamic State beheadings, the public can seemingly tire of any story if the flow of fresh details ends.

Read more from Sarah Westwood at The Washington Examiner

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Hillary Clinton Sees Opening In Republican Gaffe On Benghazi

Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California still appears to be on track to become the next speaker of the House. He did himself no favors this week, however, with some comments on the Benghazi investigation and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

McCarthy has been in apology mode the past few days after he told a Fox News program that since House Republicans had created the special committee to look into the 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, Clinton’s poll numbers have dropped.

McCarthy added, “Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made it happen.”

The Clinton campaign, congressional Democrats and even disenchanted Republicans quickly jumped all over McCarthy’s comments.

Clinton is scheduled to testify before the panel on October 22 and it is seen by many as a key test of her presidential campaign. 

But Republican strategists still expect the House committee to grill Clinton about her handling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attacks.

“I think the optics of it could really be damaging to Hillary Clinton regardless of what comes out of that hearing,” said strategist Ford O’Connell.

But is there a danger Republicans could go too far?

“Oh, absolutely. They can overplay their hand.” He quickly added, “The Clinton camp likes to say that so far they [Republicans] are overplaying their hand on the email [controversy]. But so far, it’s working.”

Read more from Jim Malone at Voice of America

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Jeb Bush-Marco Rubio Rivalry Breaks Out

The long-simmering rivalry between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio has finally spilled out into the open.

For months now, the Florida Republicans have battled behind the scenes. The two presidential campaigns have pushed opposition research, battled for activists and donors, and taken frequent implied swipes at one another.

But with Rubio besting Bush in the last three national polls, Bush this week pulled back the curtain. Twice in two days, the former governor publicly sought to draw a distinction between him and the first-term senator, whose political star rose under Bush’s governorship.

Rubio has so far held his fire.

Supporters for Bush and Rubio seemed relieved that the tension has finally boiled over. Members of each camp believe they’re well-positioned to meet the other head-on.

Rubio appears to have the momentum, however. He has surpassed Bush in the polls in the weeks since the last Republican debate and looks more like the formidable challenger many believed he’d be all along.

“It looks like Bush has recognized that Rubio is the biggest threat to his campaign in terms of solidifying the establishment vote, so he’s trying to big-foot Marco,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, who is unaffiliated. “It’s not vicious, it’s just a little jab.”

Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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Political Divide A Threat To Republican Hopes

The deep divisions within the Republican Party are on full display in the wake of House Speaker John Boehner’s announcement last week that he will resign at the end of October.  Couple Boehner’s impending departure with the rise of political outsiders in the Republican presidential race and it’s clear that the divide between establishment Republicans and grassroots conservatives is very much alive and could become a distraction for the party as it approaches the 2016 presidential election.

The split between grassroots conservatives and establishment Republicans is also evident in the presidential race with the rise of non-politician outsiders like Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump.  Trump addressed the issue when he announced details of his tax reform proposal this week in New York.  “And you know, people ask, how come Trump is doing so well, and [Ben] Carson and others?  How come they are doing [so well]?  You know why they are doing well?  Because people are tired of political speak.  They are tired of that.”

There is little doubt that conservative impatience and anger with the status quo are driving the presidential race, said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.  “Basically, it says that a lot of Republicans feel that Republican leadership in Washington has basically not done enough to push back President Obama’s agenda.  And we are not only seeing this in Washington, but we are also seeing the same effect on the presidential campaign trail and that is why we are seeing the outsiders rise.”

Read more from Jim Malone at Voice of America

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Will Ted Cruz, The Anti-Washington Crusader, Shut Down The Government?

With his poll numbers falling far short of those garnered by Republican presidential candidates who’ve never held elected office, Ted Cruz has a chance this week to prove he’s just as anti-Washington as his rivals atop the leaderboard — despite the “Texas senator” title that suggests he’s part of the political establishment. 

On Tuesday, Cruz could reprise his starring role in a congressional fight to fund the government, this time over taxpayer dollars going to Planned Parenthood.

But the White House hopeful’s stand against the spending bill is likely as political as it is principled. 

“For Cruz’s presidential campaign, the stakes couldn’t be higher in terms of the upcoming congressional showdown,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He wants to be seen as a political outsider and, right now, he’s not gaining traction in the polls because he’s seen as an insider.”

It’s still unclear what Cruz plans to do when the Senate puts the continuing resolution to a final vote on Tuesday. Cruz’s Senate office did not reply to a request for comment, and he has not made any promises to embark on another 21-hour floor speech. But even if he decides not to put up a fight this time around, Cruz will have another chance to do so in December, when the stopgap spending bill runs out, conveniently just before the 2016 nominating contest kicks into high gear. Congress will also have to vote to raise the debt ceiling around the same time.

“December could be a make or break moment for Cruz,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Emma Margolin at MSNBC

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2016 Donald Trump Tax Plan: Cuts Across The Board Proposed As Billionaire Gets More Serious

With glistening golden marble as a backdrop in a building that in many ways defines opulence, Republican front-runner Donald Trump, flanked by a pair of American flags, offered up his tax plan Monday at Trump Tower, proposing to cut all individual American tax brackets, impose a discounted tax on money held offshore by U.S. companies and cut capital gains.

To pay for the tax cuts, Trump proposed an incentive that could bring back as much as $2.1 trillion currently sitting offshore. The plan would impose a 10 percent flat tax on all of that money, even if it stays overseas. The idea behind this portion of the plan is that it would increase the amount of money in the U.S. and encourage investment and job growth stateside.

The plan also would limit the amount of personal deductions allowed, a proposal that would affect the nation's wealthiest individuals the most.

Trump has been looking to bolster his campaign and show his candidacy is about more than just his ability to hold a room and be a popular celebrity. His lack of policy papers became particularly noticeable during the second Republican debate, during which former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina put up a disciplined and policy-strong front. She and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson have been surging in polls.

His strategy of simple popular appeal seemed to be waning.

“The idea of stalling out the field is not going to work. It’s worked well for him thus far, but eventually we’re going to move from the personality phase to the substance phase and basically Trump’s going to have to be aware of that,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who is unaffiliated with a 2016 campaign. “He’s looking for that second act. He had the first one: ‘I’m Trump and everyone else is a Bozo,’ and now it’s like, ‘Hold on. I’m going to need a little bit more meat behind this,’ ” added O’Connell, who worked on John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008.

Read more from Clark Mindock at International Business Times

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Two Charts That Show How John Boehner Had An Impossible Job

There's a great irony to John Boehner's resignation — once upon a time, he was involved in an attempt to oust a speaker himself. The official bio on the speaker's website puts it this way: he was, back in the day, "a reformer who took on the establishment."

But when one becomes speaker, one becomes, by definition, part of the establishment. And these days, the conservative base just doesn't like the establishment.

Here's another irony: Boehner has become more conservative over the last 25 years — and the Ohio Republican remains more conservative than the average GOP congressman. But he hasn't kept pace with the hard-liners, and that's important in this era of record polarization.

Those are two big reasons Boehner's job as speaker was such a struggle. Let's examine:

1. Voters (Republicans especially) really don't trust Washington 

Americans have grown increasingly distrustful of government in the last few decades, and the feeling is particularly strong among Republicans, according to data from the Pew Research Center.

Long story short, public distrust of government translated into elected officials distrusting establishment figures, said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. Outsiders distrusted the long-time leaders, and those leaders suffered for it.

"They're elected to represent your views. ... And a lot of Republicans just did not feel [lawmakers] were making the progress that they should," O'Connell said. "Boehner was the symbol of that inaction."

Read more from Danielle Kurtzleben at NPR

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