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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Fact File: Can Donald Trump Make It To The White House?

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has surged to the top of opinion polls as the preferred Republican presidential nominee in 2016, taking many pundits by surprise.

Mr Trump has also grabbed headlines with a series of attacks on illegal immigrants and other politicians.

But despite his frontrunner status and personal wealth, is a Trump presidency likely? 

Here are some points to consider.

If Donald Trump were to become president, he would be the first non-politician elected to the White Housesince Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.

However Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, who is a former advisor to 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, told Fact Check that while the odds of a non-politician being elected president aren't great, they are probably higher than at any time since General Eisenhower.

"The reason is that Americans are tired of politicians and Washington politics-as-usual, and a non-politician candidate could leverage that to his or her advantage," he said.

Strategist Ford O'Connell says while Mr Trump could take votes away from the Republicans if he runs a third party campaign, he says it isn't likely to happen because even for the billionaire businessman, the cost would be prohibitive.

Read more from Fact Check at Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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Who's In, Who's Out: Selection Day For The GOP Presidential Debate

The final polls are in and the stage is set for Thursday night's first Republican presidential debate.

Those who made the cut, according to Fox News: businessman Donald Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Relegated to an earlier debate Thursday evening: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.

The choice on who to include was a tough one for Fox, which had to decide exactly how to fit so many candidates on stage amid a ballooning field.

Fox's ultimate decision was to base who made the main debate stage in Cleveland on Thursday night at 9 p.m. ET on five of the most recent national polls that met their standards. Surveys from Bloomberg, CBS News, Fox News, Quinnipiac University and Monmouth University were averaged.

"It's 'must-see TV,' but the 'must-see' starts with Trump," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "Is he going to be a statesman or is he going to be an outspoken bomb thrower? Who knows."

Both O'Connell and Bonjean said the other top candidates, like Bush and Walker, would be wise to avoid taking on Trump directly, since they have nothing to gain and more to lose by doing so. But other candidates who need a surge of momentum might benefit from some direct attacks.

"He's got to be just livid," O'Connell said. "It's unfortunate for Rick because this time around, it's hard to make a first impression the second time."

Read more from Jessica Taylor at NPR

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Ford O'Connell To Donald Trump: Come Clean On Allegiance To The GOP

Veteran GOP strategist Ford O'Connell says it's time for Donald Trump to reveal whether he's a fair-weather Republican and is still serious in his threats to run as a third-party candidate.

"The question for Donald Trump is whether or not he's interested in the Republican Party or just interested in Trump," O'Connell said Tuesday on "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"If he does run as a third party candidate, even if he only gets 4 or 5 percent of the general election, he's going to can the Republican's chances of winning the White House in 2016.

"Once you enter the Republican fray, regardless of whether Donald Trump ran as a candidate, you should declare that you're never going to run as a third party because that's how close the White House is going to be in 2016."

Trump, viewed as somewhat of a political freak by Republicans, has warned he will run as an independent if the GOP doesn't treat him as a serious candidate. 

Watch the video and read more from Bill Hoffmann at Newsmax

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Can The Other GOP Candidates Trump Donald Trump In The First Big Debate?

With just two days until the first Republican presidential debate, all eyes are fixed on Donald Trump, the unpredictable, brash, billionaire real estate mogul who has found himself at the top of the polls – and sucking up nearly all of the 2016 oxygen in the process.

The never-shy, always-controversial Trump will almost certainly score the coveted center-stage slot on the Cleveland debate stage. And that puts his fellow candidates in a tough position: How do they deal with this boastful birther? Do they engage with him? Do they try to talk with him seriously and substantively? Do they shrug him off as some kind of carnival barker? Do they attack him? Do they avoid him altogether?

It’s a tricky balancing act; after all, he does have a quarter of the GOP electorate behind him, and the more serious candidates lagging in the polls will surely be wary of alienating Trump backers by dissing The Donald.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist and another former McCain adviser, didn’t buy Trump’s talk. “He’s going to come and debate,” said O’Connell, adding that his M.O. is “undersell and overdeliver.”

Which strategy will pay off? O’Connell said it depends on the candidate. If you’re doing well in the polls – like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – “engaging Trump is not the smartest option. Stick to the issues and stay above the fray no matter what Trump does. No need to roll in the mud just yet.”

But if you’re a lower-tiered candidate, like Christie, Paul, or Huckabee, “Tussling with Trump could get you headlines, it could give you momentum. But Trump punches pretty mightily, so you have to be careful.”

Read more from Aliyah Frumin at

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Will Donald Trump's Relationship With This Man Hurt His Campaign?

Donald Trump's business dealings with a white-collar criminal allegedly tied to organized crime are beginning to percolate up into the 2016 presidential campaign.

The real estate magnate's blunt demeanor, suggesting an executive who ruthlessly gets his way, is part of his appeal to some voters. But his past business dealings are also darkened by ties to a convicted criminal and by the shadow of the Mafia.

Felix Sater, a fraudster with alleged connections to Cosa Nostra, worked closely with Trump on numerous occasions. His ties to the mob have been documented by the New York TimesBBC, and othernews organizations, and largely revolve around his involvement in a money-laundering scheme dating to the 1990s.

Some political insiders think Trump can turn his ties to the mob into better poll numbers, as he has with past controversies. Ford O'Connell, a GOP strategist and veteran of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said he thinks Trump will try to leverage his mob connections as a reason why he should win the GOP nomination.

"As accusations grow about ties to organized crime, et cetera, it would not shock me if he turned this into a foreign policy credential," O'Connell said. "He literally says 'I've had success in dealing with unsavory people and sometimes you have to deal with these types of people if you want to get things done.' I can literally see him moving his little Tyrannosaurus rex arms saying that."

Read more from Ryan Lovelace at The Washington Examiner

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Donald Trump Tries To Appear Presidential With Firing Of Aide

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s firing of a campaign aide over racist Facebook posts was received by GOP pundits as an attempt to show himself as presidential and capable of making expeditious judgments in the face of controversy.

“He’s trying to show himself to be a statesman and strong leader,” said GOP operative Ford O’Connell, who advised John McCain’s presidential campaign. “And one way to do that is, when you’re presented with a problem, make a swift, quick decision.”

Trump’s campaign said yesterday that longtime aide Sam Nunberg was fired after racially charged Facebook posts made years ago surfaced. The website Business Insider reported the posts Friday.

They included a racist slur to describe the Rev. Al Sharpton’s daughter and references to President Obama as a “Socialist Marxist Islamo Fascist Nazi Appeaser” and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as “Huckahick.” Nunberg told the website he was shocked and didn’t recall writing the messages.

Nunberg has spent years working for Trump’s organization and has been fired before, in 2014 when Buzzfeed published an unflattering profile of Trump.

The dumping comes as other GOP candidates privately strategize on how best to attack Trump during Thursday’s national prime-time debate on Fox News.

O’Connell said people who are enamored with Trump feel that way “not because of his issues or who he surrounds himself with, but with what he represents, which is anti-Washington, anti-political and willing to speak his mind.”

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at The Boston Herald

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Republican 2016 Presidential Debate: The Challenge Of Being Relegated To The 'Kids Table'

When Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham was asked recently what he thought about being excluded from the very first prime-time debate, the South Carolina senator didn't mince words: "It sucks," he said.

It does at that, and not just for him, but for the other low-polling candidates who will be relegated to the so-called second-tier debate being hosted by Fox News on Thursday, hours before the likes of Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio hog the media spotlight at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.

Because it would be near impossible to hold just one debate for all the declared Republican contenders (currently at 17), Fox News decided to hold two debates on the same night. The top 10 candidates with the highest aggregate average poll numbers will appear in the 9 p.m. debate.

The rest will participate in a not-for-prime-time round at 5 p.m., a significant blow for campaigns already struggling to gain traction among a competitive and crowded field. (Fox had initially said candidates would need at least a one per cent or higher polling average to take part in the second-tier debate, but it has since dropped the requirement.)

"It doesn't mean it's over, but it certainly means you're starting out on life support," says Washington-based Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

"You can recover but it also requires somebody else up top to trip and fall," he says.

"You're going to have to try and generate headlines," says O'Connell, though he cautions that could be "a risky proposition.

"Try not to throw grenades but you're going to have to spice it up."

Read more from Mark Gollom at CBC News

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Hillary Clinton Releases Emails, Income, Medical Records

Hillary Clinton’s emails, medical records and income were released in a classic Friday document dump, as the controversy over the former secretary of state’s private server and personal finances threatens to make her seem even less trustworthy in the eyes of voters.

Among the revelations from the latest release of Clinton emails and records:

•  She and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, earned $142 million between 2007 and 2014, according to tax records. They also paid nearly $44 million in federal taxes and donated $15 million to charity during that time.

• Hillary Clinton’s doctor declared her to be in “excellent physical condition and fit to serve as president,” having fully recovered from a concussion after fainting in December 2012. During treatment, doctors found a blood clot in a vein between the brain and skull behind the right ear and prescribed her medication, which she remains on today, to dissolve it.

While the treasure trove lacks the smoking gun Republicans are hoping for, GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said the controversy could continue to hurt her, especially if the Republican Congress opens a criminal probe.

“She is sinking faster than the Titanic right now in respect to honesty and trustworthiness,” O’Connell said. “Between that and the email situation, it’s really opening the door for Joe Biden to run.”

Read more from Chris Cassidy at The Boston Herald 

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The Political Price Of Hillary Clinton’s ‘$600 Haircut’

A reportedly pricy haircut for Hillary Clinton has stirred social media anger, and experts say the story gives new ammunition to critics who attempt to paint the former secretary of state as a rich, out-of-touch liberal who plays by her own rules.

The New York Post reported Tuesday that the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination shut down a portion of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in New York City last Friday so she could get a haircut at a salon that typically charges $600 for a cut.

Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on the haircut Wednesday, and the Post acknowledges it is unknown how much Clinton actually paid, but experts and political strategists say she probably should have taken a lesson from her husband’s 1993 “Hairgate”incident.

Beneath the typical partisan internet outrage lays a stark truth that Clinton’s campaign will have to deal with: many voters do not find her relatable.

“She suffers from a very serious ‘inauthentic’ problem,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

“She’s disconnected from reality and disconnected from the average rank and file voter,” he said.

O’Connell said appearing on non-political media and talking about other subjects can help convince voters a candidate is “a hard-working person just like everyone else.”

“Her whole Secret Service staff pulling up to Chipotle in Iowa just isn’t going to do it,” he said.

Trying to look authentic and relatable presents a challenge of its own for Clinton, though.

“She’s going to have to really worry about it the second Trump-mania stops,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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