As President Barack Obama takes arrows from Republicans and Democrats over his handling of the border crisis, Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly
sees an opportunity for GOP presidential hopefuls to step up.
"The man taking the most advantage of the situation: Texas Gov. Rick Perry," O'Reilly said on his show Thursday. Perry is in the best political situation of those expected to run since the crisis is affecting his state, where he has served as chief executive since 2000.
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"Gov. Perry is clearly looking to run in 2016, and with a good economic story in Texas, he has a solid foundation," O'Reilly said, calling Perry the clear front-runner – at least from the position of the border crisis.
Conservative columnist Laura Ingraham wasn't so quick to agree, noting that Perry's famous forgetfulness during a debate in 2012 is still a punch line in political circles.
She admitted, however, that Perry has stepped up in the current border crisis without appearing "mean or bitter to President Obama."
O'Reilly said Perry wasn't sure of himself before but now is confident.
"He speaks well, he gets right to the point, there's no bloviating," O'Reilly said of Perry, adding that the Texas governor is acceptable to most Republicans.
"I don't know if he's a front-runner, but he has done well," Ingraham said. "He looks more presidential than Barack Obama looks in my mind."
O'Reilly's second possible candidate is Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee who had until recently eschewed any talk he would run again. His family recently held a meeting on Mackiac Island, Michigan to discuss another run, O'Reilly said.
Ingraham said Romney's people have been asking in "high-finance circles" what they think about another run. At the time people didn't take it seriously, she said, but now he is looking stronger.
Still, Ingraham sees Romney as a long shot
"Remember, we had a couple of million people stayed home; they didn't turn out to vote," in 2012, she said. And she isn't sure which states he would win in 2016 that he didn't in 2012.
O'Reilly countered that Romney would take Ohio and probably Virginia, but admitted that conservatives didn't like Romney in 2012 and won't "this time around."
Ingraham noted that while the establishment would like Romney, he recently turned off conservatives by sending out a statement saying immigration reform needs to be passed before 2016.
"I think that Perry would hurt Romney," O'Reilly said.
"Big time," Ingraham agreed.
That turned discussion to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a "darling of committed conservatives," O'Reilly said, but not so much of the establishment.
Ingraham noted that Cruz has been "playing nice" with the establishment after leading what turned out to be a government shutdown over Obamacare funding in October that bruised the GOP's approval rating.
"I think the establishment crushes someone like Ted Cruz," Ingraham said.
Other players, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, haven't been vocal on the crisis, which is seeing tens of thousands of children from Central America flooding the southern border in recent months. Obama declined a trip to the border this week even though he attended high-dollar fundraisers in Texas.
Despite his omission from O'Reilly's handicapping segment, Paul was listed as the front-runner in a new Zogby Analytics poll
with 20 percent support. Cruz was not included in that poll.
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