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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

John McCain US Presidential election Clinton strategy (2008)

Unless otherwise specified the document described here:

  • Was first publicly revealed by Wikileaks
  • At that time was classified, confidential, censored or otherwise withheld from the public.
  • Is of substantial political, diplomatic or ethical significance.
  • Any questions about this documents veracity are noted. Fewer than 0.1% of documents that pass initial triage fail subsequent analysis (typically third world election material).

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Divide and conquer: McCain's plan to wrest Clintonion women from Obama?, DailyKos, MyDD, Digg

The document, dated May 15, 2008, and disowned by the McCain campaign team, presents a memorandum by 'S. Schmidt', likely Steven Schmidt, McCain's senior campaign advisor. It outlines a strategy designed to increase rivalry between followers of the Democratic Party candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Several specific techniques are described including organizing Clinton "meet-ups" (

The memo appears to have been sent to a wider McCain campaign team group which focussed on internet based campaigning.

According to the memo, conflict between Clinton and Obama has created the possibility, on the event of an Obama nomination, to 'depress the turnout of key Democratic demographics in November'.

To reach voters consisting mainly of 'white, female voters over the age of 40', a strategy has been worked out, based on newly tested 'lines of attack through independent pro-Clinton communities on the Internet', 'local "meet-ups"', and similar means.

The document identifies three messages believed to 'resonate well' with the demographic and which it hopes will weaken Obama's growth following Clinton's loss of the nomination.

  1. Sen. Obama’s connection to Rev. Wright
  2. His inexperience
  3. His links to the corrupt Chicago political machine

The memo calls for a 'greater commitment on the part of McCain’s fundraisers and our various media partners' to help in the alienation effort, as an example 'Clinton's campaign narrative about the unfair treatment that some networks, specifically MSNBC, have given her camp'.

Is the memo fabricated?

On May 27 (prior to publication) Wikileaks gave the McCain campaign team a copy of document. After some delay spokesman Jeff Sadosky claimed that the document was not authentic but would not go into further detail.

An interesting possible linguistic clue as to the source of this document is the phrase "planning to unroll a new campaign". It is far more common to use the phrase "planning to roll out a new campaign". Searching Google for the phrase "planning to unroll" turns up a single page with 14 results. A search for the more normal "planning to roll out" phrasing turns up more than 100,000 hits. Additionally, a search for the phrase "planning to roll our" (a result of a typo) returns eight results, more than half as many hits as for the "unroll" search returns. Where is this phrasing from? What does it indicate as to the source of the document? Is there any evidence that Steven Schmidt uses this phrasing?


  • Election campaigns have a history of producing many more true leaks than fabricated ones.
  • Campaign committees have a history of denying true leaked memos.
  • The memo is highly critical of Obama, but only Obama's campaign stands to benefit from a fabrication.
  • Election campaigns are long, fast moving and stressful. There is a history of injudicious memos having been written during election campaigns.
  • Informal language is frequently used within a campaign group. Campaign groups tend to become very close, united by their common purpose.
  • If engaging in a fabrication a politically stronger fabrication could have been produced.
  • Despite Wikileaks sitting on the document for several days while waiting for comment from the McCain team the memo has not appeared elsewhere on the internet or in the press. Nor did the McCain spokesperson mention that they had seen it before.
  • The source, in their submission said they were unhappy about the "astroturfing" issue and that there was "no urgency" in releasing the document.
  • Genuine sources want protection, but campaign fabricators want maximal dissemination, so why hasn't the document been disseminated elsewhere?


  • Unequivocal denial from McCain spokesperson Jeff Sadosky.
  • Election campaigns have a history of producing some fabricated leaks.
  • Motive is present. The memo's dissemination would benefit Obama at the expense of Clinton and McCain.
  • Would the McCain team be so injudicious as to write, in passing, 'We have organized dozens of “meet-ups” across the country for Clinton supporters'? ("meet-ups" are organized on-line so, this is not quite as strong as it might initially imply)
  • Relatively informal language.

If the document is fabricated, then the people and methods behind the frame-up are of substantial interest. If the document is legitimate then it reveals wilful duplicity on the behalf of McCain.

Regardless, two far more interesting questions arise--to what extent is McCain following the strategy, if not the method, depicted--depressing the turnout of Clinton women, by enhancing their sense of victimhood and to what extent is Clinton turning a blind eye to assistance from such unusual quarters?
United States
Political group (ruling)
US Republican Party
Wikileaks release date
Monday May 26, 2008
Primary language
File size in bytes
File type information
PDF document, version 1.4
Cryptographic identity
SHA256 dbb8111968e85c669c8a38a1f00a1d377029fc6564696302c97030b4a4db747f

Original here

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