Newsmax Panel: Trump's High Poll Numbers Won't Last

Donald Trump's controversial rhetoric is winning him points in GOP presidential polls, but not with the Republican establishment or with many in the businesses community who have cut ties with him following his comments linking illegal immigrants to crime.

Experts were divided on Trump's impact and staying power on Thursday's edition of "The Hard Line" on Newsmax TV. 

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell said Trump is "sucking all the oxygen out of the room." Even though he is right on some of the issues, including illegal immigration, trade and China, "being right doesn't win elections," O'Connell said.

Most voters have short attention spans, and the mainstream media are using Trump's outrageous statements as clickbait, O'Connell said.

"Every time Donald Trump's name is in a headline, guess what, it brings eyeballs," he said, "And, unfortunately, I got to win a presidency in 2016 because there's no way in hell that I can allow Obama's apprentice-in-chief, Hillary Clinton, to walk right back in the front door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

Read more from Greg Richter at Newsmax.com

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Ford O'Connell: GOP Sees Trump As A Fighter, But He Won't Win

The reason billionaire Donald Trump is starting to rise in some of the polls is because they believe the real estate mogul is a fighter, says Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"You're seeing a backlash among the Republican primary electorate that thinks the Republicans are feckless, and right now, they see Trump as a fighter," O'Connell told Miranda Khan and Ric Blackwell on "Newsmax Now" on Newsmax TV Thursday.

Trump is leading in a PPP poll among North Carolina voters with 16 percent of the vote. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are in the second place spot with 12 percentage points.

While O'Connell says that it's not surprising that Trump is leading, he also said that on the flip side, "only 29 percent of Republicans think he's a serious candidate, while 64 percent think he's a side show." 

And that's why the Republican strategist says that "there's no way that Trump's going to win this nomination."

O'Connell does think that Trump does present a challenge for the other Republican candidates who don't have the same name recognition and notoriety that the real estate mogul and reality TV star has. 

"They're not shaking in their boots, but they're definitely concerned," he told Newsmax TV.

Watch the video and read more from Courney Coren at Newsmax.com

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Jeb Bush Super-PAC Eclipses $100M In Six Months

The main super-PAC supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.) has raked in more than $103 million over the past six months, a historic figure that will likely dwarf the rest of the field.

The PAC announced the haul on its website on Thursday, noting that the group has more than $98,000,000 on hand. It's donations came from about 9,900 donors.

The news came just minutes after Bush's campaign announced it's official fundraising numbers: $11.4 million, an average of more than $700,000 for each day that he's been an official candidate.

While the top-line numbers from Bush’s campaign don’t blow his opponents out of the water, Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, told The Hill that it’s a strong report considering he raised it in only a fraction of the time compared to other GOP candidates.

Read more from Ben Kamisar at The Hill

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Is Donald Trump Stealing Chris Christie’s Thunder?

The never-shy, always controversial Donald Trump has been sucking up nearly all the 2016 oxygen over the last few weeks – and in the process, he’s drawn more than a few comparisons with another big-talking presidential candidate: Chris Christie.

They’re both northeastern Republicans. They’re known for a bold and unfiltered style. It’s not hard to see how they might be duking it out for the title of the true “tell it like it is” 2016 presidential candidate.

But is “The Apprentice” host really stealing the Garden State governor’s thunder? Not really.

“It’s the difference of telling it like it is in Christie’s case and literally blowing your brains out on the sidewalk with no filter in the case of Donald Trump,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist and former John McCain campaign adviser. “For Christie it’s about him looking for footing in a very crowded field, a campaign tactic. For Trump, that’s the way his ego runs.”

All of those hurdles, however, have nothing to do with Trump, whose vanity candidacy is taken seriously by almost no one among Washington’s professional political class, despite the fact that he’s polling solidly.

There may be one big downside for Christie – along with much of the rest of the GOP field – with so much attention being given to Trump, however.

“He’s sucking the oxygen out of the room for the GOP field. Many candidates have impressive messages but they just can’t get it out there. If your name isn’t Jeb Bush or Donald Trump, no one’s talking about you,” said O’Connell.

Read more from Aliyah Frumin at MSNBC.com

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Inside The GOP’s Plan To Tap Into Hollywood’s Big Dollars

Hollywood has long been ground zero for Democratic presidential campaign fundraising.

While a typical Southern California fundraiser can fetch anywhere between $1 million and $4 million, attaching an A-list name often brings in a boatload more. For example, George Clooney famously raised a whopping $15 million for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign in just one night.

In recent years, Hollywood has increasingly become a stomping ground for Republican candidates as well. And in 2016, experts say, expect the GOP to raise even more cha-ching.

“There’s a lot more money this cycle than we previously thought,” Republican strategist and adviser to John McCain in 2008, Ford O’Connell told TheWrap. “Mostly from traditional voters, but also from Hollywood’s underbelly that is not very happy with the economy.”

Conservative power players have raised plenty of money on the West Coast over the years — albeit less than their Democratic counterparts. But Republican operatives say there is plenty of GOP Hollywood cash up for grabs.

“When you add in Hollywood execs, there’s a lot of money available,” O’Connell said. “A lot of Hollywood power players can also help boost the name recognition of a lot of these [candidates].”

While Republican voters run the gamut, Hollywood conservatives tend to lean toward candidates who are stronger on the economy rather than social issues.

“They’re looking at three or four candidates right now,” said O’Connell. “One is obviously Jeb Bush. Another one is Marco Rubio, because he has a very compelling personal narrative. The third is Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and the fourth is Rand Paul because the tech industry is looking at him closely.”

Whether or not he’ll win the support of Hollywood conservatives remains to be seen.

“A lot of them are taking a wait-and-see approach,” said O’Connell. “We have 16 candidates potentially running, so you’re not going to hear a lot of folks voicing their opinion until they know who the final two or three are.”

Read more from Itay Hod at The Wrap

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Clinton, Bush Lead 2016 Fundraising Race As Cruz, Carson Exceed Expectations

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush, two establishment candidates with long-polished fundraising machines, are poised to finish the first half of the year with the most donations in a crowded 2016 presidential campaign field where the money chase is the first real primary.

Republicans Ted Cruz and Ben Carson — relative political neophytes compared to the current bearers of the Clinton and Bush dynasties — also have exceeded expectations with their early fundraising.

The rest of the field has its work cut out for it in a race that analysts say will require candidates to raise in the nine-figure amounts to stay competitive.

“If you want to be in the top tier, you probably need about $100 million. First we thought roughly $50 million, but then we realized there was a lot more money out there than we thought,” said Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign.

“I do believe that all eyes will be on Jeb Bush. The question is, will his fundraising haul dwarf the rest of the 2016 field? If it does, he is officially the front-runner,” Mr. O'Connell said.

In such a crowded field, it’s crucial for GOP candidates to bring in big bucks in order to increase their on-air presence and improve their chances of getting into the debates, which will lead to even more donations, Mr. O'Connell said.

“The big question in this race is ‘are you on the debate stage or not?’ I think, for a lot of them, getting on the debate stage will make a huge difference in fundraising,” Mr. O'Connell said.

Read more from Kellan Howell at The Washington Times

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Gay Marriage Ruling Could Galvanize GOP, But Not Enough To Clinch White House

U.S. Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage could galvanize rank-and-file Republicans to vote in the 2016 presidential elections, but that won't be enough for the Republican Party (GOP) to clinch the White House as it needs to reach out beyond its base.

The Supreme Court made history last month in a landmark ruling that legalized gay marriage in all 50 U.S. states, reflecting an overall leftward shift in the U.S. but roiling many conservative Republicans and their leaders, such as former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.

While the high court's decision will galvanize rank-and-file conservative Republicans, the GOP cannot depend on its traditional voters -- typically older, white men -- to win the election, and as such it needs to do more to reach out beyond its base, experts said.

"We may not look as diverse as the Democrats but in terms of ideology, we're far more diverse than the Democrats are," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

"So that could create an advantage with independent voters, who may not see eye to eye with some wings of the party but may identify with others," O'Connell said. "While Independents are leaning slightly toward Democrats on social issues, (Independents) are in total disagreement with (Democrats) on economic issues."

The GOP is not likely to dump its own conservative values, but the more socially conservative side of the party is going to have to realize that they can't be divided in the elections against what they consider the establishment portion of the party, because they're going to need each other to win, O'Connell said.

"They're going to have to be more unified when it comes to winning elections for the rest of the Republicans," he said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

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How Republicans Hope To Turn Virginia Red In 2016

Virginia has started to look an awful lot like Illinois since President Obama entered the White House, but Republicans believe they can — and must — win the state in the 2016 presidential election.

The Old Dominion has just decided to pick its Republican presidential candidate via a primary rather than a convention. Virginia's nominating contest will function as part of the "SEC primary," within Super Tuesday's 12 state nominating contests on March 1. "SEC" is a reference to the collegiate Southeastern Conference's prominence in NCAA football. But no school in Virginia participates in the SEC, and the state's shifting demographics have made competition in Virginia a whole different ballgame.

Ford O'Connell, a veteran of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and Republican strategist who has been active in Virginia electoral politics, said GOP presidential hopefuls need to follow Gillespie's example as the candidate who showed how Republicans could take back Virginia. While Republicans previously took the state for granted in presidential elections, O'Connell said, they will make a much larger push for Virginia in 2016. 

Read more from Ryan Lovelace at The Washington Examiner

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Is Chris Christie Ready To Take Off The Gloves?

Candidate Chris Christie will rely heavily on his charisma and self-deprecating humor to carry him back into contention in the 2016 race for president.

Christie also made it clear that, when it’s needed, he’ll rely on his sharp tongue. And sharp elbows.

While Christie has generally stayed on the high road so far, issuing policy speeches and reveling in the amiable give-and-take of town-hall-style events, he’s also started leveling barbs at some of his rivals for the Republican nomination.

With so many candidates jockeying for attention — and a seat in the first debates in August and September — the temptation to step up the negative attacks will be hard to resist and could really heat up the race.

For Christie, it’s an approach that could serve the obvious goal of tearing down competitors. But it could also draw useful contrasts that could improve his standing with grass-roots conservatives who have remained wary of his record. The bare-knuckle approach might also bolster his claim as the candidate who won’t shy away from a nasty brawl with Democrat Hillary Clinton in the general election.

Christie, who touts Ronald Reagan’s skill as a wily compromiser, has made it clear that he, like many other GOP candidates now, will not likely honor Reagan’s famous 11th Commandment: Thou shall not speak ill of any fellow Republican.

He enters the race as a long shot, squeezed into a lineup of long shots with single-digit support among likely Republican voters tuned into the early rounds of the race. Long shots tend to be ignored in the national news unless they generate news. And one way to do that is hammer away at rivals.

“There is not a real downside because he’s so low in the polls,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican consultant who worked on U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “He’s throwing around light elbows to figure where the windows are.”

Read more from Charles Stile at NorthJersey.com

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Early Fundraising Totals Could Shape 2016 GOP Field

Republican candidates are looking to use the release of their quarterly fundraising numbers to show they’ve got what it takes to outlast the crowded field.
 
The smart-money favorites are hoping to flex their muscles and fire a warning shot down the totem pole, while long-shot candidates seek to prove their mettle.
 
“This is the first opportunity to publicly separate the A-team 2016 contenders from the wannabes,” Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign, told The Hill.
Strategists say all eyes are on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has sought out to blow other candidates out of the water with his fundraising totals. 
But there’s a reason Bush still faces pressure to post an impressive total: His campaign’s unspoken pitch that he has the fundraising chops to match Clinton in a general election.
 
"Hillary went out there and threw up $45 million, he has to put up a number that looks good relative to the circumstances," O'Connell said. 
 
“You want to set the pace but also, your target is to scare the Clinton camp.”
The numbers come in at a key point in the 2016 race, because of unprecedented rules for the first debates of the primary season.
 
Debates hosted by Fox News and CNN in August and September are restricted to just the top 10 contenders, as measured by national polling. Candidates outside the top 10 will debate separately.
 
“The key thing for all of them is to get on the debate stage, you almost don’t care as much as long as you get on the debate stage,” O’Connell said. “But if you are getting locked out of the debate stage, you better be able to throw up something that exceeds expectations. ”
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