With Megyn Kelly 'Blood' Comment, Donald Trump Again Roils GOP Race

The rift between Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump and the conservative mainstream appeared to deepen on Saturday as a conservative political gathering in Atlanta pulled Trump's invitation and rivals piled onto the billionaire for his comments about Fox News debate moderator Megyn Kelly. 

Fellow 2016 GOP candidates perhaps sensed that with Trump as their party's standard-bearer, their chance to reverse the historic gender gap in the 2012 presidential election won by Democrat Barack Obama was under threat, months before the first votes are cast. 

Trump's comment that blood was coming out of Kelly's “wherever” during Thursday's debate—made when she questioned him about his history of making disparaging comments about women—was “a bridge too far,” Erick Erickson, editor of the RedState political blog that organized the confab, wrote Friday night. “It is unfortunate to have to disinvite him. But I just don’t want someone on stage who gets a hostile question from a lady and his first inclination is to imply it was hormonal.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said that the comments and attacks from rivals might not hurt Trump immediately but would be part of the mogul’s “slow implosion.”

“It may take weeks, it may take months, but Republican voters will realize this guy cannot be this thin-skinned and run for president of the United States,” said O’Connell, who worked for the McCain presidential campaign in 2008 and is so far unaffiliated this year. “If you can't handle it from Megyn Kelly, how are you going handle it from Hillary Clinton?”

Read more from Elizabeth Titus, 

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Neutral Observers: Donald Trump Suffered In Debate, Carly Fiorina Shined

Donald Trump suffered the most in the Fox News debate Thursday night, but it is unclear for now how much ground he might have lost or which of the other nine Republican presidential hopefuls gained from their nationally-televised confrontation.

That was the consensus of a group of political experts — pundits, academics, and Republican political consultants — who spoke to Newsmax shortly after the close of the two-hour conclave in Cleveland.

Moreover, in a surprising development, several in the group concluded that businesswoman Carly Fiorina should be included in the next "main event" of major GOP contenders. Fiorina, they felt, scored well in the so-called "happy hour debate" of seven lower-tier contenders that Fox hosted earlier in the evening.  

The common denominator of our group of debate-watchers was that all were neutral in the race and were neither aligned with nor committed to any candidate before or after the debate.

"Donald Trump's biggest error was not accepting the pledge to not run as a third party candidate," said Republican consultant Ford O'Connell. "He was bombastic and entertaining right from the start, and skirted questions like a lifelong politician in a tight, controlled setting." 

As to who gained, O'Connell told Newsmax: "Jeb Bush and Scott Walker played it safe and largely underwhelmed. Marco Rubio was the winner. Whether Rubio gets a bump in the polls is open for debate. [Mike] Huckabee, [Chris] Christie and [John] Kasich also shined."

O'Connell agreed: "One person [those] on the stage should be looking over their shoulder at in the next debate — Carly Fiorina."

Read more from John Gizzi at Newsmax 

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Republican presidential Debate: How Donald Trump's Performance May Stall Campaign

Whether any one candidate "won" the first U.S. Republican presidential debate may not have been nearly as important as the overall performance of front-runner Donald Trump. 

And on that front, the billionaire businessman may have caused his campaign some damage.

Part of the problem for Trump may have been the debate format itself, which reined in the free-wheeling candidate.

"​Here's what killed him  — that tight controlled setting," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "Trump is great if you let Trump go on his own. Trump has to figure out to make the same points he makes when he is basically unfiltered, in a tight controlled debate setting."

"When somebody can't control themselves up there and and continues to challenge questions, it doesn't leave you with the impression that you can sit in the Oval Office."

Read more from Mark Gollom at CBC News

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Climate Remains A Non-Issue In 2016 GOP Presidential Primary Season

The top 10 Republican candidates for president spent 120 minutes of their first primary season debate Thursday night in Cleveland duking it out over issues like foreign policy, national security, immigration, abortion and the economy.

Missing from the conversation, however, was climate change. Not a single substantive question was asked by Fox News moderators about global warming or energy. Except for a brief nods to the Keystone XL pipeline and undefined "out-of-control regulations," the candidates didn't raise the issue themselves either. 

"Climate change is just not a huge concern in the Republican party," said Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. "Maybe that will change in the general election, but I expect for the primary it will continue to be a non-issue."

O'Connell, the Republican strategist, said GOP candidates may be purposefully avoiding the issue until the general election in order to attract moderate and independent voters who may be more supportive of climate action than the conservative voters who typically dominate primaries. 

"While this isn't a very big issue among Republicans, it is among Democrats," he said. "Not talking about it now allows them to massage their statements if they have to scooch to the left."

Read more from Katherine Bagley at InsideClimate News

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GOP Pundits Pick Rubio, Fox As Debate Winners

The raucous prime-time GOP debate on Thursday included sharp exchanges between a number of candidates seeking to break out from the crowded field.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump took several tough questions, while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) had a notable tussle.

The Hill asked seven GOP pundits to weigh in with their winners.

Here are their thoughts:

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Rubio

Why: Without question, this was one of the most gripping presidential debates in years. Trump was bombastic and entertaining right from the start, and skirted questions like a lifelong politician in a tight, controlled setting; Trump's biggest error was not accepting the pledge to not run as a third-party candidate. Bush and Walker played it safe tonight and largely underwhelmed. Rubio was the clear winner tonight. Whether Rubio leads the headlines tomorrow and gets a bump in the polls is open for debate. Huckabee, Christie and Kasich also shined and will get more looks, but there is one person all 10 on the stage should be looking over their shoulders at in the next debate: Fiorina.

Read more at The Hill

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Donald Trump Dominates Rowdy Cleveland Debate

Donald Trump dominated the first Republican primary debate Thursday with a performance that was pugnacious, volatile and, as ever, controversial. 

Trump showed that he could take a punch, facing a number of tough questions from Fox News moderators that cited his business history, penchant for outlandish comments and erstwhile support for liberal positions. 

The businessman suffered just a few truly uncomfortable moments and avoided the kind of catastrophe some of his detractors had predicted.

As the crowd began to leave the arena, it was clear that one word would be as central to the post-debate analysis as it was to the pre-game: Trump.

“Trump was bombastic and entertaining right from the start, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “His biggest error was not accepting the pledge to not run as a third-party candidate. This will haunt Trump, especially if he doesn't rebound strongly in the next debate with more substance.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Republican Debate 2016: Why Is It In Cleveland? Ohio Could Decide Who Wins White House Race

Ohio voters held the nation in suspense in 2004 as voting officials tallied the state's close results in the contest between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry that November. Once the count was over, Ohio had decided for the country to give Bush a second term in the White House.

Ohio's key role in determining presidential contests is back in the spotlight Thursday as Republican 2016 contenders gathered in Cleveland for the first primary debate of this election season. Meanwhile, the GOP announced earlier this year that its national Republican convention, where one of the 17 candidates debating this week will likely be named the nominee, will also be held in Cleveland. Ohio is a crucial win for any White House hopeful because of its diverse mix of elderly, black, white, Hispanic, rural and urban voters who have combined in recent elections to create a key battleground for any campaign. Even without going into the numbers associated with the Electoral College system that determines who wins the election, there’s a clear historical precedent: No Republican has ever lost Ohio and won the presidency.

Ohio is a key swing state largely because in most states presidential elections aren't very competitive. Across the nation, the Electoral College voting structure gives Democrats a clear advantage. There are 242 votes almost certain to end up in the hands of Democrats and just 206 for Republicans, according to Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who worked on John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. To win an absolute majority, 270 votes are needed. There are only about seven states that don't lean strongly toward one political party, and Ohio is the second biggest after Florida.

“If you’re a Republican, you have to win Florida and Ohio,” O’Connell said. “If you’re a Democrat, you only have to win Ohio.”

So, what do Ohio voters care about?

“You can bet that one is the economy,” O’Connell said. They are also focused on foreign policy and terrorism. “In a lot of ways, they’re a lot more like the national Republican voter,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Clark Mindock at International Business Times 

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Could An All-Male Debate Hurt The GOP?

Some Republican strategists are wondering whether the all-male cast of candidates set to take the debate stage on Thursday will spoil the party's efforts to appeal to women voters.

Carly Fiorina has hosted dozens of townhall forums and meet-and-greets in early primary states since launching her presidential campaign in May. She has garnered attention in the media for her steadfast criticism of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and her status as the only female GOP candidate has given her a unique opportunity to stand out in the male-dominated field.

Nevertheless, Fiorina's inability to make headway in national polls precluded her from securing a spot in the first GOP primary debate to be held Thursday. Instead, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO will participate in a forum hours before the debate alongside other candidates who failed to make the cut.

"In an ideal world, a lot of Republicans would like to have [Fiorina] on stage," GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told the Washington Examiner."Not just because of what she represents, but because of how she talks about the issues and about Hillary Clinton."

With Fiorina absent from the debate stage, O'Connell predicts that Democrats will "try to make hay about it." He says Republicans should be prepared to respond by pointing out that the Democratic field currently has "only one female, two less Latinos and one less black candidate running."

"I don't think the book is open or closed on Fiorina just yet, but it would be more helpful to have her on that stage," O'Connell said.

"It is important to show the many different flavors of the Republican Party and she's obviously a vital wing of that," O'Connell said. "If she does well in the Thursday night [forum] and she's going to make headlines."

Read more from Gabby Morrongiello at The Washington Examiner

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How Lower-Tier GOP Candidates Can Make The Most Of The 'Happy Hour' Debate

Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal won't step onto the main stage of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, for the first major 2016 Republican presidential debate on Thursday evening.

But left-out 2016 contenders relegated to an earlier debate—an event that Lindsey Graham has dubbed "the Happy Hour Debate"—want the world to know: That doesn't mean they can't win the White House.

After finding out that their candidates failed to qualify for the headlining GOP debate hosted by Fox News, Fiorina's and Jindal's campaigns were quick to downplay its importance and to deliver a message that the White House hopefuls are keeping an eye on the ultimate prize.

But Republican strategists warn that missing the first prime-time debate could do serious damage.

"Does it sort of put your campaign on life support? Yes, it does," Ford O'Connell, GOP consultant and former campaign adviser to John McCain, said. "You want to be in the top-tier debate."

Strategists say that there's still a chance that a breakout performance at the early event could help a candidate like Fiorina climb high enough in the polls to make it to CNN's prime-time debate next month.

"If you do well, you could be in the top tier in the next go around, because chances are someone on the main stage will trip and fall, too," O'Connell said. "It's still on Fox. It's still on national television. It's still a big deal."

The challenge for candidates who miss the prime-time event but still show up for the earlier debate will be to make a splash without going overboard.

Read more from Clare Foran at NationalJournal

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Pressure Grows On GOP, Planned Parenthood

The topic set to dominate this year’s August recess is increasingly looking like abortion — and funding for Planned Parenthood.

A fifth undercover video circulated on Tuesday, showing a Planned Parenthood official discussing revenue from fetal tissue and the cost of “intact” fetuses.

Separately, GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump said he’d support a government shutdown to block funding for Planned Parenthood, almost ensuring the hot-button topic will come up at Thursday’s first GOP debate.

Republican presidential candidates and lawmakers are likely to face new pressures over their recess to cut off funding for the group when they return to Washington in September.

The threat to defund Planned Parenthood has already drawn a presidential veto threat and would almost certainly culminate in a showdown with Democrats eager to return to the politics of government shutdowns.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said Republicans don’t want to get blamed for a shutdown, but that presidential candidates have “got to demonstrate to the base of the Republican Party that you’re willing to go to the wall” against Planned Parenthood.

Read more from Rebecca Shabad and Peter Sullivan at The Hill

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