Last month I explained why I thought my former boss Senator Rand Paul would be beating Hillary Clinton right now if he were the Republican presidential nominee. I wrote:
The 2012 Republican autopsy indicated that to win the party was going to have to reach new audiences while inspiring their own base. In 2016, the GOP base is split on its controversial nominee—at this point some Republicans are even urging the RNC to pull the plug on the presidential race—while minorities, independents and young people are currently rejecting Donald Trump in droves.
Apparently in April 2015, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman generally agreed.
Private emails released by Wikileaks show top Democrat operative John Podesta circulating a memo that lists which Republican presidential candidates the Democrats should fear least and most.
In the category least feared “Pied Piper” Republicans – those Podesta thought Democrats should consider the most beatable – a memo to the Democratic National Committee on April 7, 2015 stated:
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. 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 them seriously. [sic, though the word “take” seems clearly implied between “to” and “them”]
And who were the candidates Democrats thought might pose the greatest challenge to Hillary Clinton in the general election? Podesta said of Senator Rand Paul:
more will need to be done on certain candidates to undermine their credibility among our coalition (communities of color, millennials, women) and independent voters. In this regard, the goal here would be to show that they are just the same as every other GOP candidate: extremely conservative on these issues….
• Rand Paul — What to undermine: the idea he is a “different” kind of Republican; his stance on the military and his appeal to millennials and communities of color.
The Democrats were worried Sen. Paul might outdo their candidate with young people and minorities, groups that have traditionally leaned heavily Democrat.
They were right to worry. Two days after this email was sent to the DNC, on April 9 2015 a Quinnipiac University poll reported: Paul Blooms As Clinton Wilts In Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll Finds (emphasis added):
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead is wilting against leading Republican presidential candidates in three critical swing states, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia, and she finds herself in a close race with U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky in each state, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today. In head-to-head matchups, every Republican candidate effectively ties her in Colorado and almost all Republicans effectively tie her in Iowa.
Secretary Clinton has lost ground in almost every matchup in Colorado and Iowa since a February 18 Swing State Poll by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. The Swing State Poll focuses on key states in the presidential election.
Here are some of the Clinton/Paul matchups as reported in the poll:
- COLORADO: Paul 44 – Clinton 41
- IOWA: Paul 43 – Clinton 42
- VIRGINIA: Clinton 47 – Paul 43
Clinton only beating Paul by four points in Virginia is significantly competitive for a Republican when you consider that state’s DC metro area that is heavily Democrat. Clinton currently leads Trump in Virginia by 12 points in recent polls.
The Podesta email also mentioned Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal as other Republicans who might be competitive including instructions on the best ways for Democrats to undermine each.
The latest national poll shows Hillary Clinton with a 14-point lead on Donald Trump. Rand Paul is currently beating his Democratic challenger for Kentucky U.S. Senate seat, Jim Gray, by 12 points.
Disclosure: I co-authored Senator Rand Paul’s 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington.