Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump’s new campaign manager, has never managed a political campaign of any kind, let alone a 50-state presidential operation that has more moving parts than a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Yet Mrs. Conway, a lawyer and former law professor, said it would be hard to do worse than the political operatives who led the Republican Party to humiliating losses in the past two presidential elections.
“I want my chance to fail as miserably as the Mitt Romney campaign failed,” she told The Washington Times.
“Romney lost eight of nine swing states, won 6 percent of the black vote and only 27 percent of Hispanics. I want my chance to do as poorly,” she said with a laugh.
A former Ted Cruz super-PAC head and the only major Republican pollster to devote part of her firm’s time to specializing in women’s consumer issues, Mrs. Conway and new campaign Chief Executive Stephen K. Bannon have been asked to right a Trump campaign that has careened off course.
Mr. Trump, accused of leading a campaign without content, has become snared in food fights, stepped on his own message and tumbled in polls.
No longer, said Mrs. Conway. She said Mr. Trump will speak from a teleprompter, where he is scripted — but the script is all Trump, focusing on immigration, Islamic extremism, unfair trade agreements and Clinton-Obama policies.
“The content-free campaign is over,” she said. “We are going to force the conversation to issues, because the issues favor Donald Trump.”
She is not the first person associated with the Trump campaign to lay down that law, but those who know her and her employer say she has a big advantage: She is a strong-willed, politically savvy conservative woman whom he trusts and who is not his daughter, and therefore able to maintain a comfortable measure of analytic distance.
She also has a reputation of knowing how to help male candidates connect with female voters, which is a major stumbling block for Mr. Trump.
Mrs. Conway said the Trump security message can reach them: “People don’t feel safe,” she said. “Terrorism is a complex issue with a very simple solution: We kill them before they kill us.”
She acknowledges that she and her office mate, Mr. Bannon, are oceans apart on one style.
Mr. Bannon, a newcomer to political campaigns, was a high-flier at the Goldman Sachs investment firm who turned to sartorial grunge and hiking boots to run Breitbart News. Mrs. Conway, meanwhile, is the well-turned-out public speaker and TV panelist whose words are measured and views are modulated.
Mrs. Conway, 49, the wife of a Manhattan law firm partner and the mother of four, has polled for many of the conservative movement’s major organizations, testing public opinion on all of the hot-button issues.
Among those are immigration, where she found a major connection between that issue and Americans’ fears over their own job prospects, and abortion, where she helped craft ways to shape conservatives’ messaging after undercover videos showed Planned Parenthood employees seemingly negotiating the sale of tissue from aborted fetuses.
At the Trump campaign, Mrs. Conway brings openness in a campaign known for a top-down, tightly compartmentalized management style.
“We have the door in our office open to the ‘war room,’” she said. “And to everyone in this campaign.
“We want to be able to meander into the war room because we need to bounce things off each other, because while Hillary Clinton has erected a campaign, Donald Trump has built a movement,” she said.
What does all that mean?
“Basically, we’re recognizing that we’re in a war of attrition,” she said.