(…) So to take Bush down, Clinton’s team drew up a plan to pump Trump up. Shortly after her kickoff, top aides organized a strategy call, whose agenda included a memo (see attachment) to the Democratic National Committee: “This memo is intended to outline the strategy and goals a potential Hillary Clinton presidential campaign would have regarding the 2016 Republican presidential field,” it read.
“The variety of candidates is a positive here, and many of the lesser known can serve as a cudgel to move the more established candidates further to the right. In this scenario, we don’t want to marginalize the more extreme candidates, but make them more ‘Pied Piper’ candidates who actually represent the mainstream of the Republican Party,” read the memo.
“Pied Piper candidates include, but aren’t limited to:
• Ted Cruz
• Donald Trump
• Ben Carson
We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to [take] them seriously.”
While the campaign also kept a close eye on Rubio, monitoring his announcement speech and tightly designing the tweeted responses to his moves, Clinton’s team in Brooklyn was delightedly puzzled by Trump’s shift into the pole position that July after attacking John McCain by declaring, “I like people who weren’t captured.”
Eleven days after those comments about McCain, Clinton aides sought to push the plan even further: An agenda item for top aides’ message planning meeting read, “How do we prevent Bush from bettering himself/how do we maximize Trump and others?”
They wouldn’t have to work very hard at it though; the debates were the beginning of the end for the candidate Clinton’s team always thought she would face on Election Day. The day after the first debate in August, Clinton confidante Neera Tanden emailed Podesta her analysis: “Bush sucked. I’m glad Hillary is obsessed with the one candidate who would be easiest to beat 🙂 Besides Trump, of course.”
“Just like everybody, I thought this was a Bush against a Clinton, that’s all it was going to be,” said former Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. “When I saw the first set of debates, I would turn them on in an entertainment mode to see what Donald’s going to say today. It was funny.” (Read more: Politico, 11/07/2016) (Archive)