Last night’s Republican debate is likely to be remembered as the first time the Republican establishment finally launched a coordinated attack on Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman who has been dominating the party’s primary with charisma and a contempt for traditional politics that has outweighed his lack of political experience and questionable conservative credentials.
But for many observers, last night’s attacks from other prominent GOP candidates – Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas – may be a matter of too little, too late.
“Trump is not yet inevitable but he’s on a very strong path, and if [the GOP establishment] don’t figure this out in the next 13 days, Trump is going to be the presidential nominee,” says Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist.
Read more from Henry Gass at The Christian Science Monitor
Donald Trump’s dominant performance in the Nevada caucuses takes the Republican Party one click closer to an outcome once thought unfathomable: that the flamboyant billionaire with no previous political experience and questionable conservative credentials really could become the GOP’s standard-bearer in November.
Mr. Trump won in Nevada with 46 percent of the vote, well ahead of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (24 percent) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (21 percent).
Though only 5 percent of convention delegates have been allocated, that math will change quickly come March 1, Super Tuesday, with more than 10 states voting and one-quarter of GOP delegates at stake. Voters like to back a winner, and the more Trump wins – now three contests in a row – the more likely he is to win in the future.
“If one of the two senators wants to be the nominee, they have to put their squabbling aside and start focusing on taking down Trump,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “I expect to see a glimpse of that in Houston at the debate on Thursday.”
“Here’s my thing with Marco – I believe he’s competitive enough to do it, but I don’t know if he has the killer instinct,” says Mr. O’Connell.
Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor
The endorsements are flying Marco Rubio's way, but the votes don't seem to be following.
Rubio, who pulled ahead in the endorsement race in early February, and received a surge this week after winning second-place in South Carolina was thwarted again by Donald Trump in Nevada last night.
Trump bested the Florida senator by 22 points, while Rubio's beats Trump in endorsements among governors, senators and House members 30-to-1, according to 538.
This uptick in endorsements, signaling the mainstream establishment pick, would normally 'be a big moment,' argued Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.
'That said, though, nothing in this cycle has gone according to script,' he told Dailymail.com.
Read more from Nikki Schwab at the Daily Mail
Businessman Donald Trump inched closer to the U.S. Republican presidential nomination after easily outdistancing his rivals in the Nevada caucuses on Tuesday, giving him his third win in four early nominating contests.
Trump won Nevada by a margin of 22 percentage points, garnering 45.9 percent of the vote, the state Republican Party said after 100 percent of all precincts reported results. That gave him at least 12 of the 30 delegates at stake, which would bring his total to at least 79 before February ends, according to the Associated Press.
While more than 1,200 are needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination, Trump has built a formidable head start over his main rivals, U.S. senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida.
Rubio eked out another second-place showing with 23.9 percent of the vote, and Cruz again came in a close third with 21.4 percent. Each gained at least five delegates, the AP reported.
Finishing at the bottom of the heap were retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 4.8 percent of the vote and Ohio Governor John Kasich with 3.6 percent.
Polls suggest Trump will do well in many of those Super Tuesday states, placing further pressure on Cruz and Rubio, as well as Carson and Kasich, who were not factors in Nevada.
“These guys have to figure out how to turn their fire on Trump,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist in Washington. Absent that, he said: “Which one is going to get out of this field?”
Read more from James Oliphant and Megan Cessella at Reuters
Marco Rubio picked up a flurry of endorsements Monday from key Republicans in his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, as the GOP establishment appeared to coalesce behind the Florida senator as its best hope to head off Donald Trump.
The endorsements, including support from former Senate Majority Leader and one-time presidential candidate Bob Dole, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, came after Jeb Bush exited the race and on the heels of a series of blunders by the campaign of Rubio rival Ted Cruz.
“What’s happened here is that a lot of mainstream Republicans realize if they want to stop Trump, their best bet is Marco Rubio, even over Ted Cruz,” GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told The Washington Times.
While it is not clear that the support of old guard Republicans will be enough to stop Trump in an election campaign dominated by insurgent candidates, party members expressed doubt that anger at Washington will be enough to defeat presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton.
Read more at Fox News
As the campaigns of the remaining Republican U.S. presidential candidates have descended upon Nevada this week, the battle for the state’s rural caucusgoers has played an increasingly prominent role for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Hoping to pick up what is seen as a population with a libertarian streak in the northern part of the state, Cruz is using the controversial issue of federal and state land rights to convince voters he is the true and dedicated enemy of big government, a hallmark of both his tenure in the Senate and his candidacy.
Cruz’s plan to restore ownership of a massive amount of federally owned land in Nevada to the state’s citizens is in stark contrast with rival candidate Donald Trump’s proposals. Unlike Cruz — and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — the billionaire has said he doesn’t trust states to manage their land responsibly. The strategy to pull in rural caucus participants who are passionate about this issue could narrow a polling gap and help Cruz beat Rubio — and perhaps even Trump.
“I think that the land rights issue could be useful to Cruz in Nevada just to try to find a way to at least get second place and possibly win,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican political analyst who worked as a strategist on Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. O’Connell, citing the time he’s spent working on campaigns in the Silver State, speculated that the energy Cruz could generate with the land issue could potentially tip the scales in his favor in parts of the state. “It’s a bigger issue in northern Nevada,” he added.
Read more from Clark Mindock at International Business Times
Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz need to make serious inroads into Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s huge lead in today’s Nevada GOP caucuses or risk getting steamrolled by the brash billionaire come Super Tuesday, party strategists say.
Rubio and Cruz came in second and third in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, separated by a small fraction of a percentage point.
Now that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has suspended his campaign, Rubio is widely expected to earn the designation as the party’s establishment candidate if he can pull out from the pack in Nevada, which includes Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a centrist.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said both Rubio and Cruz need a clear stand-alone second-place finish in Nevada.
“(Rubio) needs to solidify in the donors’ minds that he is their only ticket to stop Trump,” O’Connell said. “And for Cruz it would be a very bad sign to finish third. ... If he comes off two subpar showings in South Carolina and Nevada it’s not going to look real good heading into Super Tuesday.”
Both candidates, O’Connell said, will be hoping a strong showing today will help fill their campaign war chests and trigger a raft of key national endorsements.
“No one anticipated the hurricane known as Donald Trump coming through, but now they’ve got to figure out how to stop the bleeding,” O’Connell said of the GOP establishment.
“They should’ve been badgering him from the beginning but they’ve let him go scot-free,” he said, “and now he’s gained so much momentum that they don’t know how to stop him.”
Read more from Owen Boss at the Boston Herald
The Republican establishment has circled the wagons around Sen. Marco Rubio over the last two days as more than a dozen governors and members of Congress belatedly tossed their support behind him as their best hope for halting Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.
But they are also wondering if they’re too late, with one top Republican saying Mr. Trump’s easy victory over the weekend in South Carolina makes it more likely than not that he will be their nominee in November.
Mr. McCarthy has not picked sides in the race, but many of his colleagues rushed to do so, with Mr. Rubio adding the support of a sitting governor, four senators and nine House members on Sunday and Monday.
The flood of support signals just how worried Republicans in Washington are about the prospect of Mr. Trump leading their party into November, after the billionaire businessman has notched two straight primary victories and is well positioned to win the majority of the states up for grabs in next week’s Super Tuesday contests.
“What’s happened here is that a lot of mainstream Republicans realize if they want to stop Trump, their best bet is Marco Rubio, even over Ted Cruz,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “As of today, Rubio gives the Republicans the best shot of winning in November.”
Mr. O’Connell, the GOP strategist, said Mr. Trump is trying to squash Mr. Cruz’s campaign quickly.
“Trump wants to crush Cruz before Rubio lines up everyone else,” Mr. O’Connell said. “If Cruz bows out before Rubio can consolidate, that means that Trump’s going to be hitting 50 percent in the polls.”
Read more David Sherfinski at The Washington Times
Following his second place win in the South Carolina Republican primary, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is riding the “Marcomentum.” The battle for second place has been a fervent contest between Rubio and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, with Donald Trump firmly holding on to his frontrunner status in the GOP field.
In the Palmetto state, Trump won with 33%, Rubio had 22.5% and Cruz came in third with 22.3% -- approximately a thousand votes shy of Rubio.
The next contest for the GOP moves to the west for the Nevada caucus on Tuesday. In a recent CNN/ORC poll, Trump has 45% support from Republican Nevada caucus-goers, Rubio is in second with 19% and Cruz rounds out the top three with 17%.
Ford O'Connell, Republican strategist and advisor to the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign, says Rubio is poised to become the new establishment favorite for the Republican nomination but that moment may not come until Super Tuesday on March 1.
“If Marco Rubio won Nevada it would be an earth-shattering moment in the race. I think right now what Rubio needs to do is to make sure he comes in second to keep that momentum going. There are not enough votes out there to be number one so GOP candidates are trying for number two,” said O’Connell.
He says with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush out of the running, Rubio stands to inherit his donors and endorsements because he is seen as the “mainstream candidate with the best chance to win” in the general election. Voters coalescing around the Florida senator could help narrow the field but other candidates need to make way for him first.
“As long as you got Kasich eating a few of the votes, Carson and Cruz eating a few more, it is very hard to see how you could overcome Trump. If Cruz bows out those voters could be split between Trump and Rubio, that is why Trump is hammering Cruz all day long and not Rubio,” said O’Connell.
He says as long as the Republican field stays wide, Trump will continue to be the beneficiary of votes and eventually become the “winner take all.”
“If it narrows to a two-person race between Rubio and Trump before March 15, then Rubio’s chances are very good because he is the most electable against Hillary Clinton,” said O’Connell.
Read more from Elizabeth Chmurak at Fox Business
If Jeb Bush’s most loyal supporters were told last year the former Florida governor would be out of the 2016 U.S. presidential race by February, they most likely would have laughed out loud. Now, the prospect of not only seeing the Republican nomination go to billionaire businessman Donald Trump but also losing the candidate they believed would help the GOP retake the White House has set many of them back on their heels.
Within hours of Bush dropping out of the presidential race Saturday night, many outlets reported that some of his big donors were switching their support to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. As the presidential-nomination season heads toward Super Tuesday (March 1) with Trump looking stronger than ever, the establishment wing of the Republican Party is facing an increasingly fraught choice: either resign themselves to the New York real estate mogul or line up behind an alternative.
Although Rubio may appear to be a natural fit for big campaign contributors hoping to stop Trump in his tracks, Bush backers and GOP strategists say a sense of loyalty and the rivalry between the two Sunshine State politicians could make supporters think twice when choosing another 2016 presidential campaign to help finance.
“Their focus was, ‘How do you clear out the mainstream lane for Jeb Bush?’,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who advised U.S. Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “The person who was hit most by Right to Rise was Rubio.”
Read more from Abigail Abrams at Independent Business Times