What’s Donald Trump’s path to victory in 2024?
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager and former senior counselor, took less than a second to answer the question.
First off, she said, he needs to reclaim the states he won in 2016 and lost narrowly in 2020.
“That’s part of his path to victory,” she told the full room Tuesday at Rohan Recreation. “The other part is, I’m the guy who did it, and I think President Trump needs to lean into the personality thing. He has to say, ‘You may not like me. You may not like my personality, I’m not even sure what that means, but this personality is what got things done in Washington.’”
Then, he has to say he can take on Democratic President Joe Biden.
The question circled around Conway’s talk at the Tuesday night Villages MAGA Club rally. She’s been in the news lately because of her recent op-ed in the New York Times addressing Trump’s current presidential bid. The op-ed said that, while his run shouldn’t be underestimated, people shouldn’t assume it will be a smooth ride either.
Trump kickstarted the 2024 presidential primary election when he announced his candidacy on Nov. 15. The election was disappointing for Republicans, and candidates Trump supported under-performed.
Conway, however, lauded the effort and work Trump put in.
“Why would you blame Donald Trump? It’s so silly, it’s so silly,” she said. “At least he put himself out there.”
Regardless of the midterm election, Trump remains the Republican frontrunner with 46% of over 4,400 potential Republican primary voters picking him in a recent Morning Consult poll over potential rivals like Gov. Ron DeSantis and his former vice president, Mike Pence.
Both men came to The Villages last week, the first to announce a legislative proposal and the second for a book tour, some of the latest major Republican figures to do so.
The Villages, and its conservative majority, have often given Trump and other conservatives a warm welcome. Trump scooped up about 68% of the votes cast in Sumter County, in 2020, while DeSantis got about 73% last year.
Conway even talked about the time she accompanied Trump for his 2019 visit, and joked about rushing to get back to the stage when he unexpectedly called her name.
Conway has worked in the political arena for years, and founded inc./WomenTrend. She currently heads up KAConsulting LLC, and recently wrote “Here’s the Deal” about her time with the Trump campaign and administration.
The book reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in June, and a signed copy was included in the night’s admission cost.
“She owns a policy company and she’s got a good record of that, and a good finger on what people want,” said Tommy Jamieson, club president and Village of Bonita resident. “That was her advantage when she was with Trump in 2016: she knew what Trump had to do.”
Despite all the speculation about 2024, Trump, thus far, is the only Republican politician to announce his bid.
“See, we can talk all day long how great everybody is and they should run for president or they would be a great president, they need to run, they can win,” Conway said. “It isn’t the lottery: you can’t win if you don’t play.”
However, Conway was critical of Trump’s 2020 campaign for not adapting to what most Americans were concerned about then, COVID-19, and how it spent its war chest.
“But seriously speaking, if I gave you, any of you, $1.6 billion, which is about three times more than we had in 2016, and I said your opponent was Joe Biden, you can figure this out,” Conway said. “And they didn’t. His 2020 campaign proved, and I don’t want to see it again for any of our candidates at any level, the old adage to be true: The fastest way to make a small fortune is to have a very large one and waste most of it.”
Conway applauded the work involved in Florida’s recent conservative shift, and decried the divide between the two parties. She emphasized it does matter who people pick for president, contrasting the current state of affairs under Biden to Trump’s presidency.
“It’s never mattered more and if you’ve got people in your circle of life you think disagree with you, that could be, we all do,” Conway said. “But I’m thinking right about now they’re hungry for the freedom message. They want to talk about safety and security, affordability and fairness.”
Specialty Editor Leah Schwarting can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5375, or firstname.lastname@example.org.