How Far Will Republicans Go To Stop Trump?

Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that there will possibly be "riots" at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland if he wins a plurality of delegates in the primaries but is not given the presidential nomination.

If neither Trump nor Sen. Ted Cruz can reach a 1,237-delegate majority--Ohio Governor John Kasich is still in the race, but it is mathematically impossible for him to clear that threshold at this point--he could easily be denied the nomination at the convention. Trump's supporters have warned such a move could divide the Republican Party. 

Cruz has also cautioned the party about the risks of a contested convention.

Republican strategist Ford O'Connell acknowledged that there is "some resentment" between Trump and the party establishment that both sides will need to work together to overcome.

"There's a lot of people who don't know what to think at the current moment," he said. He cautioned against taking the exit poll data at face value, though. If Trump wins the nomination and proves his potential for the general election, some of the hesitation to support him will subside.

According to O'Connell, the #NeverTrump Republicans are a small but vocal faction of the party. If internal opposition to Trump ultimately costs the GOP the election, it could also allow a Democratic president to install a liberal majority on the Supreme Court that will last decades.

"The idea that you would cut off your nose to spite yourself seems a little childish to me," he said.

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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After Crucial Win, Kasich Sees Path To Republican Nomination

After a critical win on his home turf, Ohio Governor John Kasich begins a new phase of his long-shot presidential campaign that his aides hope will ultimately propel him past Republican front-runner Donald Trump by triggering a rare contested convention.

Kasich's victory in Ohio's primary on Tuesday, along with the departure from the race of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, makes him the party establishment's last hope of stopping the New York billionaire businessman from winning the Republican nomination for the Nov. 8 election.

Trump and his closest rival, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, are deeply unpopular among Republican insiders.

With most of the remaining states allocating delegates proportionally, Kasich’s aides believe he could prevail at a convention at which no candidate enters with a majority.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist who has stayed neutral in this year's nominating fight, said Kasich's victory should earn him more help from party insiders.

"There are really just two options left: Either Trump gets enough delegates, or nobody does," O'Connell said. "Kasich's win in Ohio means Trump must now win roughly 60 percent of the remaining delegates before the convention. I would say we now have a 50-50 chance of a brokered convention."

O'Connell said that under Republican party rules, a candidate must receive a clear majority of primary votes overall to become the nominee. 

The history of Republican nominating fights is littered with candidates who received a plurality of the votes, but not a majority, and never became the nominee.

Read more from Tim Reid at Reuters

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Trump, Clinton Continue March Toward Nominations

There is no doubt Tuesday was a good night for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the Republican and Democratic presidential front-runners.

Whether either did well enough, however, to put them on a certain path toward winning their parties’ nomination is up for debate.

Trump also did well, winning North Carolina, Illinois and Florida, a victory that effectively knocked one of his main rivals, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, out of the race.

It winnows the Republican field to just three candidates, and Trump is tied with Texas Senator Ted Cruz in Missouri.

The New York businessman missed a potential opportunity to put the race away, though, losing Ohio to John Kasich, the state’s governor. Ohio was particularly important because, like Florida, it assigns delegates on a winner-take-all, rather than a proportional basis, like many other states.

It now remains unclear whether Trump can secure the number of delegates needed to win the nomination outright before the Republican national convention in July, according to Republican analyst Ford O’Connell.

“He’s by far in the best position to get the 1,237 delegates before Cleveland,” O’Connell said. “But to do that, he’s going to have to win roughly 58 to 60 percent of the remaining delegates – it’s a high but not impossible bar.”

O’Connell said there is about a 50-50 chance of a contested convention, in which pledged delegates would be freed to vote for whoever they wish.

Others are less optimistic about Trump’s chances of avoiding a testy convention battle.

Read more from William Gallo at Voice of America

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New Math: Where Trump, Clinton Stand After Primary Victories

The once-improbable prospect of a Trump-Clinton general election showdown just got stronger.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump boosted his front-runner status, winning the most delegates at stake Tuesday and forcing Florida Sen. Marco Rubio out of the race by handing him a humiliating defeat in his home state. 

For now, though, Trump dominates in the delegate race, with 621 of the 1,237 needed to secure the nomination, as of early Wednesday. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz sits in second place, with 396.

To reach the magic number of 1,237 before the Republican convention in Cleveland, Trump would need to win some 58 percent of the remaining delegates, a tough task in a three-person race, but not impossible.

“A contested convention remains a 50-50 proposition, but should Trump fall just shy of the magic number, the GOP will be contesting him at its own peril,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

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The Very Things That Propelled Marco Rubio Into Office Are What's Sinking Him Now

Marco Rubio surfed a wave of Tea Party fury at Washington into the Senate in 2010. Now, he’s drowning in its undertow.

Six years ago Rubio took on then-Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, a charming, telegenic candidate with strong establishment support.

But Crist’s splits with to the conservative base on the stimulus and global warming and close ties to the "establishment" dragged him under in the year that birthed the Tea Party. Now, it’s Rubio who’s been hamstrung by his Washington and establishment ties and apostasies with the base on immigration.

Rubio was once viewed as the party’s savior. Now he's fighting a steep uphill battle to win Florida's primary on Tuesday. If he loses his home state, as expected, it will likely be a final blow to a hobbled presidential campaign.

"The very forces that pushed Rubio and Cruz into office are the ones that are going to push Trump over the finish line for the Republican nomination," said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who has worked in both Texas and Florida.

"It was about that anti-establishment feeling for Rubio and Cruz. And that’s what Trump has become the beneficiary of - he’s been able to harness that same anger against them."

Read more from Cameron Joseph at Mashable

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Who Will Be Today's Big Winners? Pundits Weigh In

The Hill asked a number of commentators to predict what happens in today's Republican and Democratic primaries. Here's what they had to say.

Ford O'Connell

Winners: Trump and Kasich

Super Tuesday 2.0 is likely to be a very good day for Trump, and it could be a defining moment in the race. Trump will win Florida, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri, netting his campaign in the neighborhood of 200 delegates out of a possible 367. That said, the main event is Ohio. Fortunately for the anti-Trump forces, Kasich will eke out a win in this winner-take-all state.

That leaves Trump as still the best-positioned candidate to secure the 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination, but to accomplish that he will have to win roughly 60 percent of the remaining delegates — a high bar, but certainly not impossible. Taking a step back and looking at the delegate math, a contested convention remains a 50/50 proposition.

O'Connell is the chairman of CivicForumPAC, 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 at The Hill

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Trump's Appeal Divides Tea Party Loyalties In Crucial States

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has effectively split the conservative Tea Party movement, as his fiery campaign draws in followers of the group who had been expected to line up behind Ted Cruz, a more consistent champion of small government.

As the Republican race moves to the crucial battlegrounds of Ohio and Florida among three other states on Tuesday, Tea Party support promises to help Trump's campaign offset its relative lack of on-the-ground organization compared to Texas Senator Cruz, his closest rival nationally.

Having loyal Tea Party supporters could also help him fend off moves to block his nomination at the Republican National Convention in July if he falls short of the threshold of 1,237 delegates that would guarantee him the party's candidacy.

A Feb. 29 CNN poll had 56 percent of Tea Partiers favoring Trump compared to 16 percent for Cruz. A March 9 Quinnipiac University poll had Trump leading Cruz 48 percent to 40 percent among Tea Party voters in Florida, while Cruz led Trump with 38 percent to Trump's 33 percent in Ohio.

"Trump has tapped into Tea Party emotions, gaining the support of many of the most hacked off and motivated voters out there," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "It was a brilliant move."

Read more from Nick Carey at Reuters

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Strategists: Hill-Trump A Battle For Ages

Polls predict big victories in tonight’s crucial state primaries for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, making a general election battle between the two increasingly likely and handing the former secretary of state the biggest challenge of her political career, political watchdogs say.

In order for Clinton to beat Trump, she must throw out old playbooks and find a new way to command the political discourse and expand the electoral map to her advantage, experts said.

“People have been far underestimating (Trump’s) electability,” sad GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He is a unique political animal who has the ability to change his tone and his rhetoric.”

But the campaign that has propelled Trump to the lead in the Republican race won’t easily translate to the general election.

“[Trump] has to hold on to white, working-class voters,” O’Connell said. “Hillary lost the working-class voter in Michigan to Bernie Sanders — who, by the way has a same position on trade as Trump.”

Read more from Kimberley Atkins at the Boston Herald

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Did Ted Cruz Make The Right Play In Florida?

Marco Rubio has always been a long shot to win his home state of Florida. Not a single poll there since last July has shown the Florida senator overtaking GOP front runner Donald Trump. However, while Trump appears certain to win Tuesday’s primary, it seems to be Sen. Ted Cruz who is serving up the deathblow.

Going into the Florida primary, Cruz, the number two candidate in the GOP campaign, could have approached the race in two very different ways. He could have sat back, stayed out of the state and perhaps let Rubio pull off a win by leveraging Cruz's leftover voter base. Then the two could have gone on and duked it out over the next few weeks with Trump holding far fewer delegates.

Or, Cruz could continue to campaign in Florida, denying Rubio potential access to a new crop of followers, and instead help hand the state directly to Trump.

So far it’s clear that he has chosen the latter.

“Ted Cruz is not trying to win Florida, he’s trying to knee-cap Rubio so he can get it down to a three-person race. Ideally he wants to get it down to a two-person race,” said Ford O’Connell, former adviser to John McCain’s 2008 campaign. “Asking politicians to put the team ahead of their own personal self-interest is like asking a thief to stop stealing—he’s looking at it as protecting Ted Cruz—because he’s thinking that, ‘If we go to a contested convention, I won’t come out on top.’”

While Rubio has a long history in the state, having started there as a member of the Florida House and moved up the ranks to senator, Cruz has more of a defined voter base that comes out to support him in every state.

“Rubio has no base to fall back on,” O’Connell said. “Trump has wiped every base of voters. Cruz has a mixture of the tea party constitutionalists and hardcore conservatives. Who does Rubio have? Establishments? Establishment is the big word of 2016, but no one can define it.”

Read more from Miranda Green at Scripps Media

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Inside Kasich's Long-Shot Strategy To Beat Trump To The GOP Nomination

Microphone in hand, Republican John Kasich promised the crowd inside a high-tech Ohio factory Saturday that he’ll never be beholden to Washington insiders if he wins the White House in November.

But as he zigzags across the state before Ohio’s GOP primary on Tuesday - emboldened by polls showing him edging ahead of rival Donald Trump - Kasich may soon need all the Washington insiders he can get.

Behind the scenes, strategists for Kasich, the Ohio governor, are studying arcane party rules that they believe could offer a path to the Republican nomination if he wins his home state, his aides said.

It is a long-shot strategy, both for Kasich and the anti-Trump forces inside the party. But if fellow GOP candidate Marco Rubio loses his own state of Florida on Tuesday - as polls predict - a surge by Kasich may be the only viable strategy for Republicans looking to stop Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

A loss by Rubio, a senator, will almost certainly end his struggling candidacy. If Trump wins both Ohio and Florida, the New York real estate mogul’s march to the nomination will be all but assured.

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist not affiliated with any presidential candidate, expects Kasich to face a tough battle even if he wins Ohio. 

“But for some of these anti-Trump voters, if they can get Kasich to a contested convention, they see that as their best hope of blocking Trump."

Read more from Tim Reid at Reuters

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