Internal GOP memo outlines plan if Trump wins nomination

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a Trump for President campaign rally in Macon, Georgia November 30, 2015. REUTERS/Christopher Aluka Berry
REUTERS

GOP officials are already starting to imagine how they would handle the election season if Donald Trump is selected as their 2016 presidential nominee.

A seven-page internal memo obtained and published Wednesday by the Washington Post laid out a plan in September to staffers at the National Senatorial Campaign Committee (NRSC) on how to deal with Trump if he wins the nomination next summer.

CBS News confirmed the accuracy of the internal memo.

The NRSC official in charge of overseeing 2016 Senate campaigns, Ward Baker, sent the memo entitled "Observations on Donald Trump and 2016" to his senior staff on Sept. 22.

"We should prepare for 2016, by understanding the environment and recognizing the Trump phenomenon," Baker wrote.

The memo laid out a series of recommendations for Senate races, which explained that candidates should consider tapping into Trump's outsider spirit but also reject some of his extreme positions and comments.

While the memo suggests, for example, that candidates "change the look" by removing their suits and visiting people in their own homes, it also suggests that candidates shouldn't be afraid to distance themselves from Trump.

Trump is a "misguided missile," the memo said, because Trump always says what's on his mind. Baker said that will require candidates to spend their full time defending him and condemning him.

It acknowledges that Trump has connected with voters on issues like trade with China and the U.S. immigration system, but it suggests candidates shouldn't feel trapped by his positions.

"Trump will continue to advance those messages, but you don't have to go along with his more extreme positioning. Instead, you should stake out turf in the same issue zone and offer your own ideas," the memo said.

On Trump and women, the memo bluntly stated, "Houston, we have a problem. Donald Trump has said some wacky things about women."

But the memo also directs candidates not to waste their time attacking the nominee because that won't benefit the party.

"Spending full time attacking our own nominee will ensure that the GOP vote is depressed. That will only serve to topple GOP candidates at every level," it said.

The memo was issued about 10 months before the Republican National Convention kicks off and published as Trump faces backlash over comments he's made on Muslims and when he appeared to mock a New York Times reporter who has a disability.

Nonetheless, Trump is still leading the GOP presidential pack in numerous polls. A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday found 27 percent of GOP voters back Trump, with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida in second place with 17 percent support.

CBS News' Nancy Cordes contributed to this story.

  • Rebecca Shabad

    Rebecca Shabad is a video reporter for CBS News Digital.