Local Rep: Abandonment Could Be Boon For Donald Trump, Bust For Paul Ryan

Donald Trump bid good riddance to House Speaker Paul Ryan and establishment Republicans, casting their efforts to shun him as a liberation — a move that a local Trump campaign official said could spark a run on Ryan’s power.

“It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to,” Trump tweeted yesterday, throwing gasoline on a fire started Monday by a conference call in which Ryan directed GOP candidates to focus on their own re-elections, not Trump’s run.

Trump mocked Ryan’s call in a separate tweet, referring to the Wisconsin Republican as “Our very weak and ineffective leader,” and saying Ryan “had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty.”

State Rep. Geoffrey G. Diehl, co-chair of Trump’s Massachusetts campaign, said Ryan risks looking out of touch with the Republican base.

GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, who advised McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said Ryan was “downright stupid” to abandon Trump in such a public way.

“It’s Trump’s party for now, and he’s the standard bearer, he’s generating all the enthusiasm, and not supporting him could suppress turnout on the GOP side,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at the Boston Herald

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Why Paul Ryan’s Gambit On Trump Is Backfiring

When House Speaker Paul Ryan told fellow House Republicans that he would no longer campaign with or defend GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, he may have felt it was the obvious, principled position to take.

Ryan’s goal in distancing himself from Trump, he told House GOP lawmakers on a conference call Monday, was to focus on saving the GOP majority in the House, potentially imperiled by Trump’s decline in polls. But Ryan’s new posture may already have backfired. Some fellow GOP House members are furious. And national party chairman Reince Priebus pointedly has not abandoned Trump, pledging to keep spending party money on the nominee’s campaign.

Priebus is playing it smart, says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

“At the end of day, this is Trump’s party, he’s the standard-bearer, he’s the one generating the enthusiasm,” says Mr. O’Connell, chair of Civic Forum political action committee. “So the better he does in your state, the better off you are.”

“Split-ticket voting beyond 10 percent statewide is literally a myth,” says O’Connell.

The party is in civil war, and what everyone seems to forget is this: Parties are not ideological machines,” says O’Connell. “They are competing enterprises designed to win elections. Sometimes you have to recognize that, even if it’s not your cup of tea. The Democrats get that.” 

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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Republicans Running For Congress Get Ryan’s OK To Bail On Trump

Vulnerable California Republicans in Congress felt the Earth shift under them Monday as House Speaker Paul Ryan publicly cut his members loose from any obligation of loyalty to the top of the GOP ticket.

With the Republican Party reeling from the crisis less than a month before election day, three California Republicans considered most at risk of losing their seats denounced Trump after the emergence of the tapes on Friday. Others in safer seats stayed silent.

GOP analyst Ford O’Connell said Republican incumbents as a whole face a political quandary. Disloyalty to the nominee threatens to anger Trump’s hard-core loyalists at the party’s base who loathe its “establishment” leaders. Yet support for Trump could alienate the large swathes of general election voters, especially women and minorities, who view Trump with revulsion.

“At least until election day, this is still Donald Trump’s party,” O’Connell said. “Turning against the nominee could cause problems with base voters.”

O’Connell predicted Republicans would narrowly maintain House control, if only because Democrats would have to win nearly every vulnerable seat to reach 30. 

“It’s still a long haul for Democrats, but then again, we don't know what else could drop,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Carolyn Lockheed at The San Francisco Chronicle

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Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Get Ugly In Throwdown

A cornered Donald Trump went scorched-earth on Hillary Clinton in their critical second debate last night, laying into the Democratic nominee on former President Clinton’s sex scandals, repeatedly calling Clinton a liar and threatening the former secretary of state with prosecution for deleting emails if he wins.

The candidates — who didn’t shake hands at the outset of the town-hall-style debate — talked over each other and the moderators as they broached a host of thorny subjects, starting with an explosive exchange on Trump’s 2005 recorded comments about trying to have sex with a married woman and how he approaches women.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP operative who advised John McCain’s 2008 presidential run, said Trump’s attacks “breathed life into a campaign that was on life support.”

“Is he going to win the race? That’s still an open question,” O’Connell said. “When we started tonight there were questions about whether he was going to drop out. ... Trump proved himself to be an escape artist and lived to fight for another day.”

Read more from Jack Encarnacao at the Boston Herald

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Pundits React: Who Won The Second Debate, Clinton Or Trump?

The Hill asked a few of its regular contributors to assess the highly anticipated second presidential debate between nominees Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). Here are their reactions.

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Donald Trump

Before the second debate, Trump's obituary was being written in stone. After Sunday night in St. Louis, that has changed. In what might have been the ugliest and tensest presidential debate in the modern era, Trump managed to stay the bleeding and resuscitate a campaign that was on life support — an impressive feat in the face of a daunting video that threatened to permanently sink him.

There is no question that Trump's repeated jabs at Clinton on everything from her email scandal to taxes, mixed with a dash of humor, fired up his base and put Clinton on her heels. Whether it will ultimately move the needle with suburban, college-educated white voters — a group Trump desperately needs — is still an open question.

With time not on his side and still hoping for a game-changer, Trump lives to fight another day.

O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, an adjunct professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and is author of the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."

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Florida Presidential Campaigning Gets Blown Out By Hurricane

Hurricane Matthew’s wrath may have a major impact on the presidential race as the powerful storm zeroes in on the key battleground state of Florida and forces both Hillary Clinton’s and Donald Trump’s campaigns to refocus with just days to go before Sunday night’s critical debate.

“Florida is always close, and every candidate is going to look for every angle to win,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said.

But the deadly Category 4 hurricane presents a double-edged sword to the candidates, providing them with an opportunity to look presidential during a crisis situation but also presenting the perilous possibility of appearing to capitalize on a tragedy that places the homes, businesses and lives of millions of Americans in danger.

But O’Connell said he expects Trump to travel to Florida and other areas affected by the storm either before the debate or immediately after — similar to the trip he took to flood-ravaged Louisiana in August when he beat both Clinton and Obama to the region.

“If anybody was going to try it before the debate, it would be Trump,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Kim Atkins at the Boston Herald

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The ‘Saturday Night Live’ Effect On Trump VS. Clinton

“Saturday Night Live” is flexing its political muscle as the 2016 presidential race heads into the homestretch.

The long-running NBC show has provided some of the most memorable skits on presidential races and debates. Writers on the show have shown an uncanny ability to zero in on the weaknesses of White House hopefuls. 

This year’s season premiere featured a powerhouse lineup, with veteran “SNL” host Alec Baldwin, hunched over and glowering as Republican nominee Donald Trump, hurling outdated racial epithets like “jazzman” and “Coltrane” at black NBC News anchor Lester Holt, portrayed by Michael Che.

Actress Kate McKinnon has been chewing the scenery on the Hillary Clinton beat for more than a year, portraying the Democratic nominee as a cackling, power-mad and emotionally vacant politician hell-bent on ruling from the White House at any cost.

The show over the weekend was its highest-rated debut since 2008.

Republicans are used to getting short shrift from the entertainment industry, but those interviewed by The Hill said “SNL” went out of its way to lean into its mockery of Trump.

“It isn’t some no-name actor on staff they assigned to play Trump,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “They brought in Alec Baldwin, who is clearly relishing the role because of his political views. It looked like he spent 10 years studying for this at Juilliard, and the commentary, particularly pertaining to African-Americans, was rough.”

And political watchers say it could have an impact. The audience of “SNL” skews younger, potentially energizing millennial voters who have been cool to Clinton so far.

Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill

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Who Won The VP Debate, Kaine Or Pence? Pundits React

Ford O'Connell

Winner: Mike Pence

When this night began, more than 40 percent of Americans couldn't name the vice presidential nominee for either major party. I am not sure that is going to change after tonight. But if viewers walk away knowing only one name, it will be Mike Pence, who put in a valiant effort and won hands-down.

It is not so much what Pence said or any standout one-liner, it was how he did it. Pence was Trump's foil in every way. He didn't fall for the traps; he exuded normalcy and displayed a cool, calm and collected demeanor — something that downright irritated his Democratic opponent, the rather interrupt-y Kaine.

More importantly, Pence changed the campaign narrative with five weeks to go from what had been a terrible past week for Trump by throwing him a lifeline. For one night, Trump's judgment cannot be assailed: His selection of Mike Pence, after all, was his first major leadership decision.

If Trump is wise, he will give Pence his day in the sun on Wednesday and parlay it to outshine Clinton this Sunday in St. Louis.

O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, an adjunct professor at George Washington University Graduate School of Political Mangement, worked on John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and is author of the book "Hail Mary: The 10-Step Playbook for Republican Recovery."

Read more from Ford O'Connell at The Hill

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Donald Trump Running Out Of Time

Donald Trump is facing a moment of truth after one of the worst weeks of his campaign. 

Republicans and independent observers alike assert that Trump needs to turn things around — and fast — with only five weeks to go before Election Day.

“You’re either playing offense or defense — and if you’re playing defense with five weeks to go, you’re losing,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, a Trump supporter.

But O’Connell and others note that this week presents some opportunities for Trump.

His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, could give him an assist with a strong performance against Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine in the sole vice presidential debate, which is set for Tuesday. 

Trump, meanwhile, will have a chance to make amends for a widely criticized performance in the first presidential debate when he and Hillary Clinton clash again on Sunday in St. Louis. 

Trump’s supporters believe their man still has a fighting chance — and they emphasize how fast the polls can change. After all, the GOP nominee had almost erased Clinton’s once-comfortable polling advantage before the first debate.

But they also acknowledge that he has little room for error left.

“I don’t know that it’s too late,” said O’Connell. “But the window is certainly closing for Trump.”

Read more from Niall Stanage at The Hill

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Hillary Clinton Is No Barack Obama

If Hillary Clinton is to become the first female president, she'll have to do it differently than Barack Obama did in becoming our first African-American president.

The Obama coalition – women, Hispanics, African-Americans and young voters – seemed ripe for the picking for the former secretary of state, considering her opponent Donald Trump's remarks about women and Hispanics, his view that global warming, an issue important to millennials, is a hoax and his dogged pursuit of Obama's birth certificate. 

But it has not turned out that way. With five weeks to go until Election Day, Clinton remains a slight favorite to become the 45th president. But the momentum appears to be behind Trump – 46 percent of his backers are enthusiastic about voting for him; only 33 percent of hers say that – and lackluster support from the Obama coalition appears to be a big reason why. 

Among millennials, her support dropped 17 percent in the last month, and she and Trump both trail the combo of Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein among this group. 

Clinton's waning support among millennials has clearly begun to worry her campaign. Michelle Obama spent a day this week at Pennsylvania colleges stumping for Clinton, and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been deployed to campuses elsewhere to try to gin up support.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at U.S. News & World Report

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