An e-mail that surfaced from John Podesta’s WikiLeaks e-mail dump documented how Democrats planned to clear the Republican primary field of candidates with good chances at the nomination while looking to “elevate” candidates considered long shots.
According to the Podesta e-mail, dated April 7, 2015, the goals were to:
“Force all Republican candidates to lock themselves into extreme conservative positions that will hurt them in a general election.”
“Undermine any credibility/trust Republican presidential candidates have to make inroads to our coalition or independents.”
“Muddy the waters on any potential attack lodged against HRC.”
The e-mail focuses on the strategy of the “Pied Piper Candidates.” These candidates are the individuals Democrats believed to be the most beatable in a general election as a result of their views, but want them to be taken more seriously in the primary so the more competitive candidates will be forced to adopt positions that they may not feel comfortable with.
“We need to be elevating the Pied Piper candidates so that they are leaders of the pack and tell the press to[sic] them seriously,” the e-mail says, noting that the Pied Piper candidates would be Cruz, Trump, and Carson. The candidates to be cleared from the field would be Bush, Rubio, Walker, Paul, Christie, and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“Most of the more-established candidates will want to focus on building a winning general election coalition. The ‘Pied Pipers’ of the field will mitigate this to a degree, but 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,” the Podesta e-mail notes.
By early March 2015, according to a Quinnipiac poll, Republicans had been coalescing behind Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker for a few months, but he had yet to officially announce his candidacy. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, however, was only two points behind Walker with 16 percent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee both received eight percent.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson garnered seven percent while Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz received had six percent, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio picked up five percent. No other Republican contender went over two percent at the time and 17 percent were undecided.