In 1988, when Kellyanne Fitzpatrick applied for an internship at a major Republican polling firm, three things stood out on her résumé.
“No. 1, she was Phi Beta Kappa,” recalls pollster Neil Newhouse. “No. 2, she had been Miss Teenage New Jersey. And the most impressive, No. 3, she was some kind of blueberry packing champion. We said, ‘We’ve got to at least interview her.’ ”
Needless to say, Ms. Fitzpatrick – now known as Kellyanne Conway – got the internship. Thus was launched her successful career as a pollster who specializes in understanding women voters and consumers. And now she has embarked on her highest-profile job yet: Trump whisperer.
Ms. Conway’s new job title is “campaign manager,” but she’s really a “candidate manager” – and that’s the key role, Mr. Newhouse says.
“She going to be the face, she’s going to be the one who softens him up and helps him make inroads with affluent suburban voters, particularly married women and white college-educated voters,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
“So from that perspective, yes, she is a bigger deal. Because he can’t win, at least as the numbers line up right now, with white working-class voters alone. He has to make inroads into the suburbs.”
Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has struggled to drive a consistent message and consolidate the support of his own party, is honing his attack on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and the foundation bearing her last name, making it a rallying cry for fellow Republicans to get behind his campaign.
Trump began this week hammering her for the Clinton Foundation, an organization created by her and her husband former President Bill Clinton, which uses private donations to fund aid programs in developing countries.
On Monday, he called for the foundation to be shut down. On Tuesday, he called for a special prosecutor to be named to investigate the foundation.
Trump has struggled to find an attack line that fellow Republicans could rally behind. His criticism of the parents of a dead Muslim American soldier who spoke at the Democratic National Convention drew strong rebukes from many in his own party. His attacks on Clinton's health have been dismissed as conspiracy theories.
Clinton, who leads in nearly every national and swing state opinion poll, has largely avoided an onslaught of criticism about the foundation. Democratic rival U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders did not attack her on that front during the primary campaign.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the attacks are an early indicator of Bannon’s influence.
"This is a very fertile ground if he wants to dig himself out of this deep hole," O'Connell said of Trump.
Read more from Ginger Gibson and Emily Stephenson at Reuters
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is looking to shift from her role as Hillary Clinton’s Donald Trump attack dog to champion the party’s fight for on-the-fence middle-class voters with a hyped public address Thursday in Roxbury.
Despite the promise of a “new” treatment, Warren has repeatedly talked about the middle class being ‘hammered” since her 2012 run. Warren press aides did not respond to requests for comment.
Ford O’Connell, a GOP operative and former McCain presidential campaign adviser, said Warren’s speaking tour appears to be an effort to land a decisive blow on Trump after the Republican stopped engaging with her in Twitter fights.
“While Warren relishes her attack dog role on Trump, there is a concern among Democrats that Trump could still find his mojo,” O’Connell said. “And if this race ceases to be about Trump’s personality and becomes about the issues, then Democrats backing Hillary are going to have to shift tactics, including Warren. This presentation should be seen as Warren’s attempt to get ahead of the curve.”
Read more from Jack Encarnacao at the Boston Herald
Republicans say Donald Trump needs to make the election more of a referendum on Hillary Clinton to win the White House.
Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, used her party's national convention to cast the election as a referendum on Trump. In the weeks since, her campaign has continued to run television ads underlining the argument that Trump does not have the temperament and judgment to be president. And Trump, the Republican nominee, has played into Clinton’s hands with some recent controversies.
Republicans are hoping that will change in the coming weeks.
“If Trump is going to win, this campaign cannot be about his personality and fitness to be president,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, a veteran of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s 2008 campaign.
“It has to be a referendum on Clinton specifically being a continuation of the failed [President] Obama record and Clinton’s list of scandals.”
O’Connell sees Bannon’s role as twofold: to keep up the excitement among Trump’s working-class base and to “go after Hillary Clinton in a far more strategic way” than before.
“You can’t just comment on the news as it comes down the pipe or on the scandal of the day, you have to create a long-arc narrative, and I think that’s something Steve Bannon might focus on in an intense way,” he said.
“You may have to throw the kitchen sink at the wall, and some people may just have to bite their tongue along the way.”
Read more from Ben Kamisar at The Hill
Donald Trump’s visit to flood-battered Baton Rouge, La., yesterday is a sign his bid for the Oval Office is heading in the right direction — especially after top Democrats were slow to respond to the disaster that has left tens of thousands flooded out of their homes, political watchers said.
“He’s clicking on all cylinders, even though he dug himself a deep hole,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told the Herald. “He keeps this up for a couple more months and the polls are going to be real close.”
O’Connell said the contrition and swing through the deep South was a calculated play for a campaign that is struggling to connect with black voters and suburban white voters.
“He’s trying to make a play for compassion and African-American voters,” O’Connell said, “and more importantly he’s trying to make sure suburban white voters say, ‘Look, you maybe misstated things, and I don’t like your temperament, but your heart is in the right place.’ ”
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In March, Hillary Clinton told a town hall in central Ohio that she was going to put a lot of coal miners “out of business.” Weeks later, she was telling a laid-off coal worker in West Virginia that she had made a “misstatement.”
Now her comments are being used against her in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and other parts of coal country and the nation’s manufacturing heartland — just one example of how a local matter can turn into an outsized issue on the campaign trail.
It’s not a problem just for Democrats.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump got tripped up by his varying positions on North Carolina’s law regulating the use of public bathrooms based on gender identity. Mr. Trump initially said people should be able to pick the bathroom they prefer, then hours later said states should be able to set their own rules, as North Carolina’s Republicans had done.
Gay rights groups now say Mr. Trump has squandered a chance to reach out to their community thanks to his evolving bathroom stance. Even if it wins support in conservative communities, it will dent his chances elsewhere, in places where the social conservative causes just don’t play as well.
Missteps on economic or social issues can be inevitable given the frenetic schedule of presidential campaigning and the need to tailor messages to specific audiences in key swing states.
“Running for president means you’re really running nine gubernatorial campaigns at once, and there’s no way given the varied regions of the country that you are going to be perfect-sounding in every region,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
Mr. O’Connell said the gaffe was particularly damaging because it tied back to Mrs. Clinton’s reversals of her positions on trade — an issue central to the campaigns of Mr. Trump and Democratic primary candidate Bernard Sanders — and that the remedy she continues to offer isn’t much comfort for those who are struggling to look for work or keep jobs.
Read more from David Sherfinski at The Washington Times
Donald Trump has appointed Breitbart News' Steve Bannon to be chief executive of his presidential campaign, and those familiar with the conservative media mogul's style claim he is ready to win the White House race "at all costs."
Bannon, a Harvard graduate, ex-Goldman Sachs banker and former naval officer, is taking a temporary leave of absence from Breitbart.com to preside over the Republican presidential nominee's political team for the remainder of his campaign against Hillary Clinton.
The move, announced Wednesday morning, was unsurprising to Republican operatives and reporters who claim Breitbart has morphed into a propaganda machine for the GOP nominee, or an "unaffiliated media super PAC for the Trump campaign," as one outgoing employee said in mid-March.
So who is Steve Bannon and what will he do to transform candidate Trump and his campaign into an election-winning machine between now and Nov. 8?
"Steve's job is going to be to keep the populist grassroots fired up and keep the pressure on Clinton," veteran GOP strategist Ford O'Connell told the Washington Examiner.
Read more from Gabby Morrongiello at the Washington Examiner
Donald Trump’s ISIS battle plan, which includes “extreme vetting” of immigrants for anti-American sentiments, had him sticking to a script one political watchdog urged him to adopt more often.
“He needs to continue to hammer home the fact that national security and economic security go hand-in-hand — and not fly off the handle before it’s time to give the next speech,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.
In a speech yesterday in Youngstown, Ohio — a crucial election battleground state — the GOP presidential nominee called for halting immigration from “the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world,” as well as ideological tests to weed out those who don’t embrace western values and aren’t willing to assimilate to American culture.
Read more from
If you haven't heard a lot about what Hillary Clinton thinks of a string of controversial comments by Donald Trump that have generated round-the-clock coverage on cable news broadcasts, there is a reason – it's by design.
Since becoming the Democratic nominee last month, Clinton has been touring toy manufacturers, visiting tie makers and dropping in on public health clinics, where if she mentions Trump at all, it is usually to contrast their policies.
Her swift condemnation at a Wednesday campaign rally of Trump's remark that gun rights activists could stop her from nominating liberal U.S. Supreme Court justices was a rare instance where she has directly engaged her Republican rival in the 2016 race for the White House.
Aides say Clinton's strategy is simple: let Trump be Trump.
Trump has slipped in opinion polls, and worried Republican Party leaders have urged him to stop making off-the-cuff inflammatory statements that generate blanket, often negative, media coverage and distract from efforts to highlight what they see as Clinton's many shortcomings.
"He's sucking all the oxygen out of the room to his own detriment," said Republican strategist and Trump supporter Ford O’Connell. It's not enough to dominate media coverage, he needs to "win" it, O'Connell said.
Read more from Amanda Becker at Reuters
In his long shot bid to defeat Marco Rubio, Republican Carlos Beruff has yet to ignite the type of political grass fire that two years ago took out a top Republican leader in the U.S. House and nearly claimed four U.S. senators.
Following the insurgent’s playbook, Beruff has spent more than $8 million of his own money on television ads. The wealthy land developer has leveled stinging criticism at Rubio on immigration issues. And in a year Donald Trump has stormed the establishment, Beruff has drawn comparisons between himself and the Republican presidential nominee.
Yet, nothing. Not even a spark.
What Beruff is attempting is a rare feat. Since 1970, 632 U.S. senators have sought re-election and just 20 have been defeated in a primary.
Yet while 2014 proved incumbents aren’t always safe, Beruff is missing five key ingredients from that year that were crucial in turning Republican Senate races in Mississippi, Tennessee, Kansas and Kentucky into knock-down drag out brawls.
1. Street Cred
Although Beruff fancies himself an anti-establishment kind of guy, he’s lacked ties with grassroots activists who championed other challengers like Republican Chris McDaniel in Mississippi, who nearly took out 36-year incumbent Thad Cochran.
Unlike Beruff, McDaniel had deeper roots with influential tea party groups that were quick to help his campaign. Before taking on Cochran, McDaniel hosted a regional talk show, attended some of the earliest tea party rallies, and publicly took on then-Gov. Haley Barbour, a fixture in that state’s Republican circles, on big policy issues.
“He just has no street cred with those types of groups,” said Ford O’Connell, a national Republican strategist who lives in Naples.
Read more from Jeremy Wallace at The Miami Herald