Why Ben Carson Is Surging

Ben Carson, in many ways, is the antithesis of Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump is loud and bombastic; Dr. Carson is low-key and genial. When Trump speaks, he chops his hands in the air as if to enhance his brashness. Carson has calm, steady, surgeon’s hands – “Gifted Hands,” as his memoir is titled. Trump comes across as the aggressively self-confident businessman he is; Carson has the bedside manner of the physician he is.

And they’re both hot properties in the GOP presidential nomination race, ranked one and two nationally, and tied for the lead in the latest poll out of Iowa. Trump and Carson each got 23 percent of the vote among likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday.  Iowa’s Republican caucuses, scheduled for Feb. 2, are the first contest in the 2016 nominating race, and are a crucial test.

The outsider appeal of the three nonpoliticians in the GOP race – Trump, Carson, and Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard – is well-documented. For Trump and Carson, another common denominator is authenticity. Each is being himself, and in a field packed with career politicians, that’s a plus.

Carson is gaining support because “he’s viewed as principled,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Second, he’s widely seen as likeable. And third, he doesn’t talk like a politician. Any time voters hear something that sounds like political double talk, they tune out."

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor 

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Are Chris Christie And Scott Walker Out Trumping Donald Trump On Border Security?

It looks like some Republican presidential candidates are trying to out trump Donald Trump on immigration, putting forth their own out-there ideas to secure the nation’s borders.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Saturday proposed tracking immigrants similar to the way FedEx keeps tabs of its packages. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has not ruled out building a wall along the far less controversial border between the U.S. and Canada. 

Among the many GOP 2016 campaigns, Trump, the Republican front-runner, has managed to steal the spotlight on immigration. The billionaire real estate mogul wants to build a 2,000-mile, permanent border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to keep out illegal immigrants, put an end to the policy known as birthright citizenship and methodically arrest and deport more than 11 million illegal immigrants with the hope that the “good ones” will eventually be let back into the country.

Walker and Christie’s latest immigration rhetoric seems aimed at differentiating themselves from the crowded Republican field and gaining traction on an issue that Trump is clearly dominating.

“They can’t figure out how to get their message across given that Trump’s eating up all of the oxygen … It is attention seeking because they can’t get attention any other way,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist and former John McCain campaign adviser. “They risk being portrayed as cartoon characters of themselves.”

Read more from Aliyah Frumin at MSNBC

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Rising John Kasich Threatens Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush has a new nemesis, and it isn’t Donald Trump.

Presidential hopeful, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), is quietly rising in the polls in New Hampshire, capitalizing on a strong debate performance where he seemed at ease in the spotlight.

With many in the Republican Party seeking to find a Trump slayer, Kasich’s late-summer surge is threatening to steal away the mantle of establishment favorite that Bush had long been expected to claim.

"Of all the candidates out there in terms of corralling the establishment voters, Kasich is a clear and present danger of taking them," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told The Hill. 

The threat to Bush is clear.

A survey released this week by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP) found Kasich in second place in New Hampshire, thanks to increased support among moderate voters.

Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University poll released days after the first GOP debate earlier this month found Bush and Kasich neck and neck at 13 percent and 12 percent in New Hampshire, respectively.

Regardless, "New Hampshire is the spark," O’Connell said, noting that it's difficult to gain traction in the other early-voting states without big national poll numbers and attention.

"If [Kasich] can actually win New Hampshire, then the game board changes," O'Connell added.

Bush and Kasich share many similarities; both have executive experience as governor of a large swing state, and both have broken with the rest of the field on issues such as immigration and Common Core education standards.  

"Bush's theory is inclusive conservative, Kasich's is compassionate conservative," O'Connell said.

Read more from Jesse Byers at The Hill

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No details? No Problem, Donald Trump Supporters Say

Donald Trump hasn't offered many details about his policy proposals beyond immigration, but his supporters don't seem to mind.

Shortly after Trump unveiled his multi-pronged approach to discourage unlawful immigration to the U.S. and reform the country's immigration system in a 2,000-word position paper, Republicans began pressing the New York billionaire for specifics on his tax policy, plan to defeat the Islamic State and entitlement reform.

But Republican strategists predict that Trump is unlikely to deliver the same substance on other issues that he recently offered on immigration, especially since his supporters think it's OK.

Former McCain campaign aide and GOP strategist Ford O'Connell attributed Trump's success without substance to his celebrity status and said the former reality TV host can "do whatever he wants when he wants because he's setting the pace still for the rest of the GOP candidates."

However, O'Connell says Trump will need to "demonstrate that in a head-to-head matchup with Hillary Clinton he can win" if he wishes to expand his support to right-leaning independents and voters who currently back other candidates.

"Running out with every single policy detail isn't going to make him more electable, but if he can continue to roll them out as he consolidates his momentum that will benefit his campaign," O'Connell told the Examiner.

Read more from Gabby Morrongiello at The Washington Examiner

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Bill De Blasio Becomes Republican Whipping Boy As Approval Plummets

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says he wants to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Republicans are making his wish come true.

De Blasio, a Democrat who vowed to use the campaign to raise the nation’s awareness of income inequality, has instead become the target of Republican candidates who call him a symbol of inept liberalism. His role in helping Hillary Clinton get elected to the U.S. Senate 15 years ago makes him an even more attractive whipping boy.

What began as a trickle of Republican criticism has intensified as the mayor’s approval ratings dropped to a lowest-ever 44 percent in an Aug. 5 poll. News reports have focused on his habitual lateness, an increase in homicides and more visible homelessness and panhandling -- by vagrants, costumed cartoon characters and topless women. The New York Post, a frequent critic of the mayor, ran a front-page photograph of public urination.

“Bill de Blasio represents all that is bad with Big Government run amok,” said Ford O’Connell, a strategist who advised John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He’s someone all Republicans can focus on, from South Carolina to New Hampshire. Once you tie him to Hillary Clinton, it makes more sense.”

Read more from Henry Goldman and Terrence Dopp at BloombergPolitics

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What's The Timeline For Joe Biden's 2016 plans?

Democrats want the answer to two questions: Will Joe Biden run for president in 2016? And when will he make a decision?

It's now evident that Biden is actively looking at a presidential run, though he's made no final decision. But his timeline remains unclear.

Early on, Biden's team set an end of summer deadline for a presidential announcement. Now as August comes to a close, the vice president could go public with his intentions as late as October 1, possibly doing a "soft opening" before the campaign's formal launch.

"It will be at least until the end of September before they can find out if they can take on the Clinton machine," political strategist Ford O'Connell told the Washington Examiner. The dream scenario is that current front-runner Hillary Clinton fades due to concerns over her handling of classified information over email while secretary of state. Biden could then ride to Democrats' rescue.

Read more from Ariel Cohen at The Washington Examiner

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Donald Trump's Capital Gains Play: Hypocrisy Or Campaign Genius?

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 

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Big GOP 2016 Presidential Field Boosts Donald Trump

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

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Jeb Bush Is Suddenly Attacking Trump. Here's Why That Matters

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

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Carly’s Momentum Keeps Growing

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.

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 

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