Shocking Michelle Nunn leaked memo: GOP will attack her with obvious attacks!

A campaign plan for the Georgia Senate candidate leaked. It's a problem, even if its contents are fairly standard

Published July 29, 2014 4:22PM (EDT)

Michelle Nunn     (AP/Akili-casundria Ramsess)
Michelle Nunn (AP/Akili-casundria Ramsess)

National Review's Eliana Johnson published a big fat leak yesterday: a 144-page series of political consultants' memos adding up, essentially, to a "campaign plan" for Georgia's Democratic Senate nominee, Michelle Nunn. The document, according to Johnson's sources, "was posted online briefly in December and appears to have been drafted earlier that month." This implies that either Johnson's sources or National Review has been sitting on this document for 8 months, waiting for the most effective moment to unleash it on the public. And indeed, this is a perfect time: just after Georgia Republicans finally settled on their nominee, offering the GOP a foundation from which to build a general election campaign. Smart!

The document includes some cringeworthy lines for Republican operatives to poach. Stereotypes for different demographic groups abound. For the Jewish community, "Michelle’s position on Israel will largely determine the level of support here. There is tremendous financial opportunity, but the level of support will be contingent on her position." The LGBT community, in possession of "substantial resources" is also targeted as "huge" fundraising opportunity. Representatives from other "communities," like veterans, farmers, small business owners, and religious leaders are targeted by the campaign as "validators" to give Nunn cover.

And this is the unfortunate irony of this leak for the Nunn campaign. The memos imagine and plan pushback for likely attacks from the GOP. That's what a good memo should do! But now that it's leaked, the GOP can use those attacks and claim that MICHELLE NUNN'S TEAM ITSELF has, well, "validated" them.

In one section, the senior campaign staff explain that "The Research team will produce a 'pushback' document for each identified vulnerability in Michelle's record, as well as common attacks frequently leveled against Democratic Senate candidates." It then identifies those predicted assaults on her record as CEO of the Points of Light volunteerism non-profit and her personal biography.

Points of Light:

Grants to problematic entities


Liens (POL)

POL audit/IG report

Travel packages investigation

service awards to inmates, terrorists

Nunn’s salary



Nunn is too liberal

Nunn is a rubber stamp for Democrats

Nunn is Obama’s/Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi Best Friend

Nunn is not a 'real' Georgian

Nunn is a lightweight

Conservation easements

In other words, the Nunn campaign is predicting that the GOP will attack Nunn as "too liberal," a "rubber stamp for Democrats," a fake Georgian, inexperienced, etc. This is both exactly correct and also extremely obvious -- if anything, Nunn's campaign should be attacked for paying people to come up with these things. But now GOP operatives will have a field day coming up with ads along the lines of, Michelle Nunn is too liberal/a fake Georgian/a lightweight/Pelosi's best friend -- her own campaign says so! Well, not really. (It's also interesting to see how Points of Light -- a sort of bland non-profit to promote volunteerism established by George H. W. Bush, and named after a famous line from one of his speeches -- is now going to get trashed by the GOP as a supporter of terrorism.)

The document also reveals the campaign's plan to pull together a winning coalition. Here's how National Review puts it:

As southern whites have moved to the right, Democrats have been forced to cobble together a coalition of minority voters. Feldman recommends as a goal winning just 30 percent of the white vote while working to increase turnout among African Americans and Latinos. So while Jews, Asians, and gays are characterized as potential “fundraisers,” African Americans and Hispanics are the ones the campaign needs to get to the polls in historic numbers, the document makes clear.

“This constituency group is critical,” it says of the African Americans who make up much of Georgia’s Democratic base, adding that Nunn must win “a very high percentage of the African-American vote” and attract “a large number of voters who do not typically turn out in an off-election year.” The plan puts a particular emphasis on black clergy. It also highlights the need to “generate passion and enthusiasm” for Nunn in the black community. And it raises concern that Hispanics have not yet been “appropriately engaged” on her behalf.

What a shocking reveal: a Democratic Senate candidate in 2014 is trying to build a coalition largely based on turnout from African-American, Asian, and Hispanic voters. That sounds like... a generic Democratic Senate campaign in 2014. (Is there something wrong with this?) It's almost as stunning as the campaign's aforementioned prediction that Republicans will try to paint Michelle Nunn, no matter what she says or does, as too liberal for a Southern state. How unguarded!

The campaign memos, as campaign memos go, comprise a pretty standard battle plan -- and show, at least, that the Nunn team is doing its homework. The problem is that this batch happened to find their way into the public, due to some staffer's error of briefly uploading it onto the Internet, last year. Campaigns, at least the well-run ones, have to engage in a certain amount of cynicism in order to properly prepare. And now that this document is out, we get to witness the even more cynical process of GOP political operatives pretending like they've never seen a memo and expressing SHOCK that such a document could ever exist.

What a fun game.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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