A leaked memo from a top Republican campaign strategist reveals the depth of the party's concern over the possibility that Donald Trump will become the party's presidential nominee, suggesting that at least some officials see that as a threat to control of the Senate.
The 1,700-word memo from Ward Baker, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, surfaces as a new Quinnipiac poll shows Trump continuing to lead the party's presidential field, with none of his competitors consolidating enough support to emerge as an obvious alternative. It urges Senate candidates to grab one to the best parts of Trump's candidacy, but also highlights problem areas.
“Donald Trump has said some wacky things about women,” Baker wrote in the Sept. 22 memo, first reported by the Washington Post and independently obtained by Bloomberg Politics (read the full memo here). “Candidates shouldn’t go near this ground other than to say that your wife or daughter is offended by what Trump said. We do not want to reengage the 'war on women' fight so isolate Trump on this issue by offering a quick condemnation of it.”
Baker's memo is meant to prepare Republican Senate candidates for the possibility of Trump winning the nomination. While Baker never specifically says that Trump is a threat to his party's majority, the implications are clear. The first bullet point in the document refers to the celebrity real estate mogul as a “misguided missile.”
“Let's face facts,” Baker wrote. “Trump says what's on his mind and that's a problem. Our candidates will have to spend full time defending him or condemning him if that continues.
“That's a place we never, ever want to be,” Baker continued. “It is certain that all GOP candidates will be tied in some way to our nominee, but we need not be tied to him so closely that we have to engage in permanent cleanup or distancing maneuvers.”
Last year's elections gave Republicans 55-45 majority in the Senate, putting the party in control of Congress' upper chamber this year for the first time in eight years. But the party will have to play defense to maintain that control: Of the 15 Senate seats up for election next year that the Cook Political Report rates as competitive, 12 are currently occupied by Republicans.
Adding to the political pressure in a presidential election year, when Democrats generally are more successful at getting their votes to show up at polling places: The Cook Political Report, which provides non-partisan handicapping of political races, rates four Senate seats currently held by Republicans—Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin—as “toss-ups,” compared to just one for Democrats in Nevada.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee confirmed that the memo was shared confidentially with Republican advisers in September, one of a series the committee has prepared on a range of presidential candidates. “It would be malpractice for the senatorial committee not to prepare our candidates for every possible Republican and Democrat nominee and election scenario,” said the committee's spokeswoman, Andrea Bozek.