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The GOP’s secret Trump strategy

A recently leaked memo for the Republican party advises U.S. Senate candidates on how they should position their brand and image should Donald Trump become the party's nominee.

The political playbook was put together by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to help candidates better manage the anticipated fiery rhetoric that will likely come from Trump over the course of his fight to the nomination.

Here are a few items that stood out in that confidential memo. Are they spot on or bad advice?



Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015.

1. 'Trump says what's on his mind'

"Trump says what's on his mind and that's a problem. Our candidates will have to spend full time defending him or condemning him if that continues.... we need not be tied to him so closely that we have to engage in permanent cleanup or distancing maneuvers."

Stellar advice. Trump's unfiltered delivery will continue to alienate and shock voters. No one knows which group is next in his fire, but GOP candidates have to be careful not to align themselves too closely with Trump.

It's easy to jump on the Trump band wagon for many voters when he is bashing other groups, but how will they react should he attack their own personal interests? No political candidate wants to put himself in the vulnerable position of defending an off-the-cuff remark made by Trump.

2. 'Lose the suit'

"It's time to change the way you and your campaign are presented. Lose the suit and visit people in their homes and places of work."

Terrible advice. Authenticity is crucial for nearly every aspect of politics and business. If voters suspect a candidate is changing his look or image for the sake of votes, he will lose trust with voters.

And if you doubt that, just look at the Hillary Clinton campaign. The media has written extensively on how her team has tried to soften her image by changing her wardrobe or encouraging her to laugh more on the campaign trail.

Poll numbers reinforce that voters don't trust her. The GOP should be telling their candidates to dress in what makes them feel comfortable and confident. If a candidate is a lawyer by trade and most comfortable in a suit, let him be.

3. 'Trump has said some wacky things about women'

"Donald Trump has said some wacky things about women.Candidates shouldn't go near this ground other than to say that your wife or daughter is offended ... We do not want to re-engage the "war on women" fight so isolate Trump on this issue."

Mediocre advice. GOP leaders got it right by telling their candidates to insert their wife or daughter into the conversation because it ignites empathy. But I would take this a step further by advising GOP candidates to speak forcefully against any controversial comment against women.Many voters love Trump because he speaks without fear of reprisal.

He doesn't back down, even after he offends. Voters, especially women, will have a higher appreciation for a candidate who shows he isn't afraid of forcefully taking on Trump when he is wrong.

4. 'Limit the Trump criticism'

"If the environment aligns properly, Trump could win... That's why it's important for our candidates to run their own races, limit the Trump criticisms (other than obvious free kicks)."

Safe advice. GOP leaders are telling candidates not to criticize Trump in case he wins. It's the same approach the presidential candidates took when Trump entered the race, and it made them look weak against the alpha male Trump. If a candidate is running for the U.S. Senate, he should be all in. Fight for the seat like it is all you have and everything you want.Never hedge your bets. Go for the win because second place is a loser. Follow your conscious, not what the political establishment is telling you to do.That's what I would tell them.

If Trump is the nominee after next summer's GOP convention, it will be interesting to see which candidates are the first to jump on his train for photo-ops and endorsements. It might give us a better picture of who will follow the Senate rules and who will buck the conventional wisdom.

Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing theMedia." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.