THE BLOG
04/02/2007 11:39 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Leaked GOP Memos: Brownback, Huckabee and Gingrich

The leaked strategy memos of Giuliani, McCain and Romney stirred a tempest earlier in the campaign. We have obtained copies of the redacted material from those documents and excerpts from similar memos to other declared and potential Republican candidates. We cannot vouch for their authenticity. But they sound candid--and all too true. We present them here one by one -- with today's fourth installment on Brownback, Huckabee and Gingrich -- in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, who, in his Modest Proposal, suggested that the Irish save themselves from famine by eating their children, and was taken seriously by the credulous and the censorious. After all, the Republicans, amid a famine of performance and ideas, today seem on the verge of cannibalizing themselves.

From the Brownback Memo

I've heard it over and over--that you're a decent guy, a good Senator from Kansas, but can't win the nomination because you're too extreme to win the election.

The fact is that we can't prevail in a debate about electability right now and we shouldn't even try. The right strategy, and I do mean "right," is for you to be more "extreme"--proudly "extreme"--on the top rank social issues for hard-line conservatives. You have to present yourself as the real right winger of a lifetime while Giuliani, McCain and Romney are phonies: inconsistent, soft, and unreliable. We don't ever want to make the comparison explicit, but you have to be Goldwater in 1964--or if we can pull it off, Reagan in 1976 when he almost beat Gerald Ford for the nomination.

So push your opponents in debates. For example, will McCain or Giuliani make outlawing abortion and stem cell research a real priority? Will they show up in person to speak at the annual right to life rally in Washington--unlike Reagan and both Bushes, who, in order to distance themselves, just sent a tape-recording or spoke on a phone hook-up? Your message: We need a President who will pass a Human Life Amendment, not just say he's for one.

This approach will require you to mute some of your other views. You may be bothered about the Iraq War, but you shouldn't talk about that. The people who are against the war are for the most part never going to be for you. To put it plainly, conservatives object to killing the pre-born--even a cell in a Petri dish (I know, I know that's a person, so forgive the bluntness of the comparison)--but not to the killing of the post-born in Iraq. You may have converted to Catholicism, but the Republican right is not the home of a consistent ethic of life. For the same reason, knock off the stuff you're doing with Ted Kennedy to stop prison rape and violence. Your potential constituency doesn't have any time or concern for convicted criminals. And Kennedy is not our best calling card: Let McCain have him (around his neck) on immigration reform. . .

So it's first things first: the nomination, and then on to figure out how to win the election. The bottom line is Sam, you're not in Kansas anymore.

From the Huckabee Memo

No one knows you; you're an obscure Governor from Arkansas. I realize the last one got elected. But that was pre-9/11 when foreign policy didn't matter. You have no foreign policy credentials. We don't know exactly how to fix that. You are great for the religious right, but why are you better than Brownback? So our honest recommendation is that you begin thinking about the Vice-Presidency. (You don't want to end up Secretary of Transportation ...) You could bring some right-wing tilt to a ticket headed by any of the three front-runners. So don't attack them; concentrate on introducing yourself to the electorate. . .

One other point: don't emphasize Governor of Arkansas - the hearts of our folks don't beat to that. Let them think that maybe you were Governor of Alabama.

From the Gingrich Memo

You haven't yet decided whether to run, but so let me review the arguments.

Against running:

1. You closed down the government and are (unfairly) accused of acting out of personal pique--that you didn't get a good seat on Air Force One on the way to Yitzhak Rabin's funeral. I know it was really a matter of principle, but this is tough to explain even to a lot of Republicans.
2. During impeachment, you were going after Clinton's infidelity in the midst of your own adulterous affair with a staffer. Scandal generally hits Presidents after they're elected. You're pre-scandalized and the base, while intrigued by your ideas and energy, will have a hard time living with this.
3. Several operatives have commented to me that you've already lost a presidential election. In 1996, you became the other face and name of Bob Dole in the Clinton reelection ads--an inseparable pairing, as in "Dole-Gingrich Congress" and "Dole-Gingrich cuts."
4. You have some support from Republicans in the polls, but I've seen one that says two-thirds of Americans don't want you to run. You have the opposite problem of most candidates: We'd have to figure out how to lower your name recognition, so you could re-invent yourself.

For running:

I can't think of a good argument.

You would command a lot of attention--and then lose and the lights would go out for you. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama are 100 percent for you as the Republican nominee, but that doesn't get you anywhere.

So as a friend, my advice is just keep doing events like your scheduled April debate with John Kerry on climate change. The global temperature may or may not rise, but you can raise real money for a think-any-thought think tank--for example, from some of the energy companies. Thinking any thought, no matter how improbable is your strength. But the presidency--it's just not there for you.

You and Frank Luntz decided that Republicans could win by renaming policies, so the "estate tax" became the "death tax." I don't see any way to rename Newt.

NOTE: If we come across future installments of the GOP memos, we'll post them. If you somehow get hold of one, send it in.