The conventional wisdom was that almost any of the other 16 Republican presidential candidates could have run better than Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton's team certainly believed it.
Now that Trump is president-elect, not only was his weakness clearly exaggerated. With the benefit of hindsight, Trump may have been the only Republican contender who could have broken Clinton's blue wall and pulled off the upset.
Consider Trump's unlikely path to a majority in the Electoral College. Trump held on to every state Mitt Romney won in 2012 and managed to flip perennial battleground Florida into the Republican column. But the real difference-maker was Trump's strong performance in the industrial Midwest, giving him Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa and likely Michigan.
Only two states award electoral votes by congressional district. Trump swept Nebraska's electoral votes and picked up an extra one in Maine's second congressional district. Trump maxed out on Republican-leaning electoral votes.
"In the Sunbelt, the Republican senators pulled Trump across the finish line," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "In the Rush Belt, he helped pull some of them across the finish line."
Absent Trump's Rust Belt appeal, O'Connell argued that the party's next best bet in the Electoral College might have been Rubio and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, who won re-election in a landslide.
Read more from W. James Antle III at The Washington Examiner
President-elect Donald Trump has promised to be “very restrained” in his use of Twitter going forward — a pledge that was made public just hours before he launched a Sunday morning tweet-tirade against The New York Times.
As it has so many times before, new technology and a new means of communication have already reshaped campaigning and could be on the verge of reshaping the presidency.
Both politicos and social media experts say the unconventional candidate who was elected as the 45th president of the United States will have a hard time parting with a platform that was so central to his ability to win over voters.
GOP operative Ford O’Connell, who advised John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, sees President Trump turning to social media whenever he feels like he’s losing ground or getting covered negatively in the press.
“I think that what he was able to with social media in general was find a way to bypass the mainstream media and provide hope and keep his supporters fired up at time that there were rough patches in the campaign,” O’Connell said.
Read more from at the Boston Herald
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is widely expected to lead House Democrats into battle against the new Trump administration, continuing an extraordinary 14-year run as her party’s leader that includes two terms as speaker.
The San Francisco Democrat, 76, called leadership elections for Thursday and faces no obvious opposition yet, despite disappointing election results Tuesday for her caucus and grumbling that she and her top lieutenants, Steny Hoyer, 77, of Maryland and James Clyburn, 76, of South Carolina are blocking the path of younger members.
Pelosi’s office would not comment about her future role but did nothing to discourage speculation that she would try to keep her job as minority leader. Democrats gained just six of the 30 seats she needed in her longshot bid to regain the speakership post that she held from 2007 to 2011, leaving Democrats at a severe 241 to 194 disadvantage against Republicans.
Still, the results did not appear to weaken Pelosi’s standing among House colleagues. Her allies said her experience leading Democrats in similar circumstances under President George W. Bush would serve them well, and analysts agreed.
“When she wants to put her foot down, she’s very, very effective,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.
Still, Pelosi may find herself outgunned on some major issues this time, O’Connell said. “The fact that Republicans control three branches, when it comes to issues like Obamacare and climate change, it’s going to be very, very hard to stop them,” he said.
Read more from Carolyn Lochhead at The San Francisco Chronicle
Domestic issues are likely to top President-elect Donald Trump’s agenda for his first 100 days, as he backs up his pledge to improve Americans’ economic lot with tax relief, while tossing onerous executive orders and regulations, and replacing Obamacare, veteran D.C. operatives said.
Trump has laid out an ambitious plan for just his first day in office, including canceling every “unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order” issued by President Obama, lifting restrictions on energy production, and beginning to remove “criminal illegal aliens.”
In the 99 days to follow, Trump has said he will push “massive tax reduction and simplification,” including a 35 percent middle-class tax cut; tariffs on goods made by companies that relocate overseas to dodge taxes; replacing Obamacare with health savings accounts that allow purchasing across state lines; and a border wall — paid for by Mexico or Mexican immigrant remittances.
GOP operative Ford O’Connell, who advised John McCain’s 2008 campaign, said, “One of the things that drives Trump is he wants to be a success. I don’t think he’s going to necessarily get crazy right off the bat.” He expects Trump to act to “repeal what he sees as job-killing regulations,” address the Supreme Court vacancy, and repeal Obamacare.
Read more from Jack Encarnacao at The Boston Herald
Hillary Clinton's historic defeat in the presidential election this week confounded pollsters and analysts who had predicted a comfortable victory for the Democratic nominee. But it also continued Clinton's pattern of frequently coming up short in key moments.
In 2008, Clinton's victory in the Democratic primary was considered all but certain until, quite suddenly, it was not. In summer 2015 and earlier this year, Clinton's cruise to the Democratic nomination was a foregone conclusion until, on the eve of the Iowa caucus, it was transformed into a slog by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
And on Tuesday night, Clinton's assured ascension to the White House was stopped dead in its tracks by a defeat the political class failed to see coming.
Like in the case of Jeb Bush's failed bid for the GOP nomination, the warning signs for Clinton appeared early in the primary.
"Hillary Clinton was the candidate that always made sense on paper. She was the logical choice," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist. "But she never made rank and file voters enthusiastic, whether it was the 2008 primary or the 2016 general election."
Read more from Sarah Westwood at The Washington Examiner
How did (most of) the political and media establishment get Tuesday’s election so wrong?
Inside the Beltway, and in enclaves of “elite” thought around the country, there was a strong sense up until the returns began to come in that Democrat Hillary Clinton would be the next president of the United States.
Even the Republican National Committee, which supported Donald Trump, thought Mrs. Clinton would win, as of late last week. The RNC’s assessment was based on “ sophisticated predictive modeling,” shared with reporters privately last Friday.
Now, on the day after Mr. Trump’s stunning victory, the sober assessments of why most pundits got it wrong are rolling in.
So how did Trump pull it off?
“He was an imperfect candidate with a near-perfect message,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “Everyone was focused on his flaws, and the words that came out of his mouth. But his message was powerful.”
His message was, essentially, “government is not working for you,” says Mr. O’Connell. “People want safety and security, both in defending the country and economically. He struck a responsive chord.”
The “hidden vote” that Trump tapped into included not just working-class white men but also married white women, O’Connell notes. Trump also scored well among college-educated white men.
Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor
Donald Trump was right. Countless others were wrong.
The pundits and pollsters who said the former reality TV star could not win the U.S. presidency, the Republicans who shunned him, the business leaders who denounced him and the Democrats who dismissed him failed to fully understand the depth of his support.
In a stunning victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump stuck to a plan that worked to perfection in the Republican primary, a campaign built around his blunt-talking celebrity persona, his command of social media, and his anti-establishment message of change.
“Ours was not a campaign, but an incredible and great movement,” Trump said in his victory speech on Wednesday.
“He was an imperfect candidate with a near-perfect message,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who has long backed Trump. “I don’t think a lot of people understood that.”
Read more from James Oliphant at Reuters
After months of fretting about a tough electoral map, Republicans kept control of the House and Senate as they successfully defended a number of vulnerable seats Tuesday night.
The GOP held its ground in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
Democrats netted a seat in Illinois, and one race was still too close to call — but the GOP ensured it would keep a majority with the projection just before 1:30 a.m. that Sen. Pat Toomey would win re-election in Pennsylvania.
In the House, Democrats did gain ground, but nowhere near the number of seats needed to overcome the GOP’s massive advantage.
Heading into the election, the GOP was on defense in so many states that prognosticators had predicted the Senate would flip.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said in a tight finish, the unsung hero of the night is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who orchestrated the firewall even as his candidates struggled to campaign in the shadow of presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“McConnell, ironically, had far better instincts when it came to dealing with Trump than, say, Paul Ryan,” he said.
Read more from Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times
Rep. Tammy Duckworth unseated incumbent Republican Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois on Tuesday night, giving Democrats an early pickup as they seek to wrest control of the upper chamber from the GOP.
Control of the chamber remained on a knife’s edge as results trickled in late into the night, but Republicans were projected to hold on to seats in Ohio, Florida and Indiana that Democrats once thought they had a chance of winning. But plenty of other targets remained on the board as Senate Republicans struggled to defend their 54-46 majority.
The U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, was projected to remain in GOPhands, handing Republicans at least one check on a would-be Democratic president and Senate as both sides appeared on track to trade key House wins. The results fell well short of hopes earlier this fall of a Democratic “wave election” that would have given the party total control of Capitol Hill.
“Republicans were playing a lot more defense going into this with respect to the Senate,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “Frankly, the Democrats did not recruit the strongest candidates they could find.”
“Everyone knew that the Republicans were going to lose House seats — the only question was only how many,” Mr. O’Connell said.
Read more from David Sherfinski and Tom Howell Jr.
Republicans who rode anti-Obamacare sentiment to majorities in Congress are relying on voters like Florida trucker Edwardo Arenas to help them win back the White House and undo President Obama’s legacy item once he’s gone.
Six years after passage, Obamacare is still cropping up on the campaign trail, as Mr. Obama turns to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to build on his signature achievement in lieu of Mr. Trump, who’s vowed to tear it down.
A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found voters were far less likely to cite health care as the most important issue in their vote for president — just 9 percent of Democrats and 5 percent of Republicans — than issues such as the economy, foreign policy and social issues.
Indeed, Obamacare lingered in the background until late October, when the administration confirmed that many consumers who purchase insurance on their own would see double-digit premium increases in 2017.
Mr. Trump is using the news to rustle up votes in key swing states. A down-ballot candidate like Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, frequently reminds voters that his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, voted for the law in 2010, as Arizonans see their premiums spike by an average of 116 percent.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said the law’s political reach won’t be clear until the exit polls come in on Election Day, though any “Obamacare voters” will likely come out of states like Arizona or North Carolina, where Republican Sen. Richard Burr is fighting to protect his seat against former state lawmaker Deborah Ross.
“How and why voters pull the lever for a general election presidential candidate is usually more complex than a single item like Obamacare,” Mr. O’Connell said. “That said, where the Obamacare voter might be most pronounced is in some of these key Senate races that also double as presidential battleground races.”
Read more from Tom Howell Jr. and S.A. Miller at The Washington Times