Senate GOP campaign arm: 'Trump could win'

Story highlights

  • Top GOP Senate strategists outline Trump candidacy in seven-page internal memo
  • The leaked memo refers to Trump as a Trump a "misguided missile"

Washington (CNN)The campaign arm for Senate Republicans is imagining a world in which Donald Trump is the party's standard-bearer for the 2016 election, with a leaked memo noting, "Trump could win."

In a seven-page internal memo, the National Republican Senatorial Committee's executive director Ward Baker lays out a game plan for Republicans running for Senate in 2016 to ride Trump's populist fervor while dodging the brash billionaire's controversy-prone candidacy should he win the party's presidential nomination.
"Trump has risen because voters see him as authentic, independent, direct, firm, --- and believe he can't be bought. These are the same character traits our candidates should be advancing in 2016. That's Trump lesson #1," Baker writes in the memo, obtained by CNN and first reported by The Washington Post. "We should prepare for 2016, by understanding the environment and recognizing the Trump phenomenon."
    Republican Party elites and elected officials have privately fretted in recent weeks over Trump's continued front-runner status in the GOP presidential contest, concerned that Trump, who has made divisive and controversial statements about Mexican immigrants, Muslims and others, could be a liability for the party in the general election.
    Now, the NRSC memo appears to shed light on the party's thinking as Trump's odds of winning the nomination have waxed, and not waned, with Baker noting that "Trump could win."
    Reacting Thursday to the memo, Trump told CNN that he was "very flattered."
    "They put out a memo saying they think I'm going to win -- basically, so I am very flattered by the memo," Trump said.
    But Baker also painted Trump in a more unforgiving light in the memo, calling Trump a "misguided missile" and urging 2016 GOP senate candidates to "run your own race" and not "get drawn into every Trump statement and every Trump dust-up."
    "Let's face facts. 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," Baker writes in the memo.
    And the memo makes particular note of Trump's at-times controversial comments about women, which have included calling fellow GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina too ugly to be elected and suggesting Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she asked him a tough question at the first Republican presidential debate.
    "Houston, we have a problem: Donald Trump has said some wacky things about women," the memo reads. "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 re-engage the 'war on women' fight so isolate Trump on this issue by offering a quick condemnation of it."
    Trump refuted that assertion on Thursday, saying he has "more respect for women than anyone would understand" and pointed to his rise in the polls in the weeks following the terrorist attacks in Paris.
    "I'm gonna get people jobs and I'm going to protect people. And that's why whenever there's a tragedy, everything goes up, my numbers go way up because we have no strength in this country we have weak, sad politicians," Trump told CNN.
    But Baker also urges the Senate candidates whose names will appear on the ballot below Trump's to capitalize on some of Trump's populist-themed message and his results-driven authenticity.
    The memo notes that "Trump can hit the right cord," connecting with voters' concerns over issues like China and the U.S.'s immigration system and calls on candidates to attack Chinese espionage and trade imbalance as Trump has, but to avoid some of Trump's "more extreme positioning" on controversial issues like immigration, where Trump has staked out a hardline stance.
    And if there's one thing Republican candidates shouldn't do, according to Baker, it's attacking Trump should he become the Republican nominee. Instead, he advises striving for a delicate balance.
    "We can't afford to depress the GOP vote. Spending full time attacking our own nominee will ensure that the GOP vote is depressed. That will only serve to topple the GOP candidates at every level," Baker writes. "Maintain the right amount of independence, but avoid piling on the nominee."
    The memo appears to be one of several internal documents Senate Republicans' campaign arm has drafted in preparation for the 2016 election and the different candidates who could emerge at the top of the party's ticket -- a factor that is hugely important to congressional candidates running in a presidential year.
    "It would be malpractice for the senatorial committee not to prepare our candidates for every possible Republican and Democrat nominee and election scenario," NRSC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said in a statement.