Hillary Clinton has led Donald Trump in each of the last 21 general-election polls. Recent state-level surveys show the Democratic nominee tied in Utah and winning Arizona. Two-thirds of the electorate says the GOP standard-bearer is not qualified to be president, and the party’s Senate Majority Leader won’t express an opinion on that subject either way. But fear not, Red America, because the RNC has a plan.
In a memo obtained by the Huffington Post, the RNC outlines a strategy to paint Clinton’s VP choice as an insult to Berne Sanders’s supporters, no matter whom she selects. In the memo, RNC research director Raj Shah writes that the goals of “Project Pander” are to “drive wedges between these top contenders and either Clinton and/or traditional Democrat constituencies, such as labor, environmentalists, and gun control advocates, and other traditional left-wing constituencies,” and “[w]here applicable, frame the choice as an insult to the large, deep base of Bernie Sanders supporters who are struggling with the notion of supporting Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democrat nominee.”
The GOP seems to view disaffected Sanders supporters as being central to a November victory: Last week, Donald Trump explicitly invited Bernie backers to join his “movement,” in a speech that included swipes at Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street, support for NAFTA, and Iraq War vote.
Targeting crestfallen Sandernistas isn’t the worst strategy in the world. True, there probably aren’t that many democratic socialists who want to cut taxes on the one percent and ban all Muslims. But merely demobilizing a large segment of Sanders’s youth voters would give Trump a little boost — the last time he was competitive in the polls was before the California primary, when large numbers of Bernie voters still refused to pledge allegiance to their likely nominee. Plus, exit polls suggest that a segment of Sanders’s primary voters were self-described conservative Democrats, who were motivated more by animosity for Clinton than love of socialism: The memo cites a Bloomberg poll released last week that found 22 percent of Sanders’s supporters plan to vote for Trump in November.
The RNC hopes to make Clinton’s running mate unacceptable to Hillary-skeptical Democrats of both the left and right. Thus, the memo calls for Republicans to paint Virginia senator Tim Kaine as an anti-union, estate-tax-repealing, partial-birth-abortion-banning, free trade-loving “hyperactive partisan” whose love of the ACLU, tax hikes, and Obamacare show that he is “more liberal than the electorate.”
If the Democratic nominee picks Elizabeth Warren, Republicans hope to make the left view the pick as another example of Clinton’s “insincerity,” while convincing moderate Democrats that a Clinton-Warren ticket means “taking America down the path of the radical left.” Oh, and also Warren “lied about her Native American heritage.” Just in case someone cares about that.
According to reports, the third and final candidate on Clinton’s VP short list is Housing and Urban Development secretary and former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro. The RNC plans to highlight Castro’s attempt to lure a Connecticut-based gun manufacturer to San Antonio shortly after the Sandy Hook shooting, his support for NAFTA, and (alleged) support for the Iraq War. The memo doesn’t bother making a case for Castro being too liberal, opting instead to paint him as a “John Edwards–esque,” inexperienced empty haircut.
The Clinton campaign told the Huffington Post it wasn’t too intimidated by the RNC’s “Googling” prowess. And it (probably) shouldn’t be. The ranks of “democratic socialists for Trump” have thinned since last week — down from 22 percent in last week’s Bloomberg poll to 8 percent in a new Washington Post–ABC News survey.
And, in both polls, Clinton led Trump by 12 points.