The Defeat Of #NeverTrump

It's now or never for #NeverTrump. A contested Republican convention where the front-runner could lose the nomination is no longer in the cards. He's now the presumptive nominee, weeks sooner than most expected.

The focus has now shifted to a conservative or independent third-party candidacy. Supporters claim the campaign infrastructure and funding is in place. There's just one problem: As deadlines loom, no candidate has bitten.

Quite the opposite, in fact. Every time a name is floated in the press, the prospective candidate quickly says he is not interested. Mitt Romney, who has at times sounded like a candidate, has so far been willing to only help recruit one. Time is running out.

Every major Republican congressional leader except for House Speaker Paul Ryan has now endorsed Trump for president, and even Ryan has signaled his support is likely to come eventually. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has called the third-party project a "suicide mission."

"It's gotten to the point where it's just get on board or get out of the way," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told the Examiner. "Many of the people who missed the point on stopping Trump have also missed the point on the purpose of political parties. Political parties are not meant to be ideological vessels, but competing enterprises whose job is to win elections."

Their sincerity won't necessarily translate into results. "The biggest part of their problem remains the same," O'Connell said. "It was never the why, it was the who and the how."

Read more form W. James Antle III and Gabby Morongiello at The Washington Examiner

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Libertarians Have A Lot Of Work To Do

The Libertarian presidential ticket of former GOP governors, with Bill Weld in the veep slot, could draw big money from a major Republican donor — but only if they can prove they pose enough of a threat to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to be worth the investment, strategists said.

“If Koch sees (stopping Trump and Clinton as) a real possibility, they’ll throw some money in there,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said, referring to a Daily Caller report that billionaire GOP donor David Koch offered to bankroll the Libertarian ticket featuring former GOP Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico and Weld. The report said Koch is willing to put up “tens of millions of dollars.”

But that possibility becomes more remote if the candidates can’t realistically win — starting with their home states.

“The idea of Weld winning Massachusetts over Hillary Clinton is science fiction,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at The Boston Herald

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Suddenly, Democrats Look To Be In Disarray

Beaten by Bernie Sanders in Oregon on Tuesday and barely edging a win in Kentucky, a state where she bludgeoned Barack Obama in 2008, Hillary Clinton gives the perception that she’s losing her way to winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

To worsen matters for her candidacy, the Democrats — not the Donald Trump-led Republicans — suddenly look like the party that’s falling apart after the indubitably liberal California Sen. Barbara Boxer, one of Clinton’s top surrogates, said she felt physically threatened by Sanders supporters at a party conclave in Las Vegas last weekend. 

“When asked randomly on the street or in focus groups who they are voting for, people respond, ‘I like Trump,’ or ‘I hate Trump,’” said GOP political analyst Ford O’Connell. “I don’t hear anyone saying, ‘I’m pulling the lever for Hillary because she just gets it going for me.’”

Read more from Carolyn Lockheed at The San Francisco Chronicle

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Donald Trump Is Racking Up Many Sports Endorsements For His Presidential Campaign. Here’s Why

No candidate in recent memory has racked up endorsements from the athletic world like Trump  — by International Business Times' count he's locked up at least 36 people from pro sports, either with full endorsements or public comments that skated right up to the edge of an endorsement. And the names are formidable.

This unmatched support from the sporting world is the result of a confluence of factors working in Trump's favor, including the obvious facts that he has connections to the sports celebrity circuit and has long courted stars at his golf resorts. But sports and politics experts also point out that his brand of blustery machismo has appeal for athletes raised in locker rooms, and that he has largely racked up endorsements from people who already fit Trump's largest demographic — angry white men.

Here's a small sampling of Trump's sports supporters, with help from lists compiled by USA Today's For The Win and the Washington Post: Knight, Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, UFC head Dana White, retired football coach Lou Holtz, Nascar CEO Brian France, NFL legend Mike Ditka, retired MLB player Johnny Damon, retired NBA player Dennis Rodman, retired boxer Mike Tyson, golfer John Daly and wrestler Hulk Hogan. 

As Trump turns to the general election, he could lean even more on his stable of sports stars to energize his supporters. "[Athlete endorsements are] helpful in terms of legitimizing, particularly with his base voter, white working-class voters, and white working -class voters love sports," said Ford O’Connell, a political analyst and Republican strategist who worked on the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign.  

Who knows what role, if any, sports-related endorsers will play come the general election, O’Connell said. At the very least, they bring media attention, something on which Trump has built his campaign.

"If it brings you one more vote, then it's helpful," O’Connell said. 

Read more from Tim Marcin at the International Business Times

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Donald Trump Is Considering Newt Gingrich For Vice Presidential Role

Donald Trump has discussed in recent days the possibility of selecting former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his running mate, according to people familiar with the talks.

Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has been asking confidants for input on Gingrich as a potential pick, including during conversations Wednesday at Trump Tower in New York, according to a person familiar with the discussions. 

Trump told the Associated Press that he has narrowed his running-mate list to “five or six” candidates, and has named campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to head up the vetting process “with a group” of staffers.

“Trump needs a VP who will sing from the same hymn book he does on the campaign trail, pacify conservatives and can pull the right levers of power in D.C. to get things done once in office,” said Ford O'Connell, former campaign adviser to 2008 Republican nominee John McCain. “Gingrich, without question, fits that bill.”

Read more from Kevin Cirilli and Jennifer Jacobs at Bloomberg Politics

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Democrats All In On Hispanics Vs. Trump

With Donald Trump as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Democrats see a chance to turn Hispanic voters away from the Republican Party this election — and perhaps for years to come.

They are seizing on every opportunity to fan the flames, with an eye toward winning the White House, taking back the Senate and cutting into the GOP majority in the House.

Surveys indicate Trump has enormous ground to make up with Hispanics as he shifts toward the general election. In a recent poll by America’s Voice and Latino Decisions, 79 percent of Hispanics said they had an unfavorable view of the businessman, who famously launched his campaign talking about Mexico sending criminals into the U.S. 

Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist, said Democrats know their two largest voting blocs are Hispanics and unmarried female voters, so "they are going to do everything possible between now and the election to show that Trump is risky and dangerous" to those groups.

Split-ticket voting is precisely what the Democrats want to avoid, hoping a strong presidential showing will provide gains in the House and deliver the Senate.

"They are confident Donald Trump is going to go down like the Titanic," said O'Connell, who believes that split tickets are at an all-time low and "candidates running statewide are only going to be able to run within 5 points of Trump and Clinton."

"Whether Trump wins or loses this election, the Republicans have to realize that for long-term viability they have to make inroads with Hispanics," O'Connell said.

Although O'Connell believes Democrats will have the demographic's vote for at least the next two electoral cycles, he said the party risks overreaching.

Read more from Rafael Bernal at The Hill

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Trump Seeks To Assure GOP On Taxes

Donald Trump sought to clarify his position on tax cuts Monday after making comments that raised questions about where he stands on the issue.

In interviews over the weekend, Trump had suggested that lowering tax rates for the wealthy would be negotiable if he were elected president, seemingly defying the GOP’s long-held position that rates should be lowered for everyone.

He moved to clarify his comments Monday morning, telling CNN that high-earners would still get tax cuts if he won the White House. He said that wealthy people might have to pay a higher rate than the 25 percent rate specified in his tax plan but that they would still pay less than they are now. 

Later in the day, Trump issued a tweet that a campaign spokesperson said was “in response to the misrepresentation of his statements.”

“I am lowering taxes far more than any other candidate,” Trump tweeted. “Any negotiated increase by Congress to my proposal would still be lower than current!”

The questions about Trump’s tax-cutting bona fides are emerging just days before he comes to Capitol Hill for a crucial visit with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other congressional Republicans. 

Tax cuts is “one of the holy grail of issues that all Republicans are united on,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. He estimated that Trump needs about 90 percent to 92 percent of registered Republicans to vote for him in the general election in order to win.

Read more from Naomi Pagoda at The Hill

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Experts: Third-party Run Would Be Disaster For GOP

An independent candidate for president — as imagined by William Kristol, who reportedly pitched the idea earlier this week to former Bay State Gov. Mitt Romney — would be a long shot that could end disastrously for Republicans, experts told the Herald.

Gene Chandler, a former GOP deputy speaker of the New Hampshire House, said pushing an independent candidate into the race would give the election to Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell agreed, calling a GOP-led independent run “absolute insanity.”

“Who appointed Kristol as the ‘defender of conservative ideology?’ ” O’Connell asked. “There’s no way a third-party candidate can win or have anybody but Hillary Clinton win.”

Read more from Brian Dowling at the Boston Herald

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Donald Trump Slams ‘Goofy’ Liz Warren As Hillary Clinton’s ‘Flunky’

Donald Trump last night slammed Elizabeth Warren as a “goofy” Hillary Clinton “flunky” who based her career on a lie about her claims of a Native American heritage during a supercharged Twitter tirade.

Trump, a lock for the GOP nomination, took to social media to unleash his fury.

Minutes prior to calling Warren’s claims of Native American heritage into question, Trump said he would be happy to see Clinton — the Democratic front-runner — pick Warren as her running mate.

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said depending on what that probe turns up, it could still be “a real ace in the hand” for Trump — though he said establishment Republicans like Graham saying they won’t vote for him or attend the Republican convention this July are giving Clinton ammunition.

Read more from Brian Dowling at the Boston Herald

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Republicans Predict Ryan Will Warm Up To Trump

Republicans on Friday were cringing at the thought of a Republican National Convention in July in which the chair of the event, House Speaker Paul Ryan, refuses to back his own party's nominee, Donald Trump.

"It's not going to look good when the guy who is waiving the gavel is like, 'Screw you!'" one top GOP strategist predicted.

And that's why Republicans believe Ryan will ultimately throw his support behind Trump's probable nomination. Not because he wants to, but because he must.

"I do think Ryan can be won over," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell, who worked on the McCain-Palin presidential campaign in 2008.

O'Connell believes Trump privately wants to establish a positive relationship with Ryan so he is able to win over conservatives and unify the party behind his campaign before the July convention in Cleveland.

"The next ten weeks are the most important ten weeks of the general election," O'Connell said. "From now until the convention he has to unify the party behind him."

As for Ryan, his goal is to keep a Democrat out of the White House, and make sure nothing erodes his majority in the House.

"If he is out there looking like he's really having thoughtful discussions with Trump, it's a lot easier when he makes an endorsement and has to drag Republican conference members along with him," O'Connell said.

Read more from Susan Ferrechio at The Washington Examiner

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