Kellyanne Conway has argued that former President Donald Trump needs to shift away from bashing his critics and instead focus on more policies if he hopes to succeed in his 2024 presidential bid.
When Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election despite not winning the popular vote, it was hailed as a major upset after many pollsters predicted the opposite outcome.
But much has changed since Trump won the presidency in 2016 despite having no prior political experience on his resume. For one, he wasn’t able to pull off another victory in 2020 against Democratic President Joe Biden, though Trump has continued to push the baseless claim that the election was stolen.
He has faced several different investigations, including probes into his handling of classified materials and his alleged involvement in the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot. The now-dissolved House committee that was investigating the Capitol attack referred Trump for criminal charges last month.
Conway, who served as senior counselor to Trump during his administration, penned a guest essay on the former president that was published by The New York Times on Friday.
Conway said that even though Trump’s critics and supporters alike have a continued “obsession” with the viability of his political future amid speculation about a potential criminal indictment and his GOP influence, his 2024 presidential bid should not be shrugged off.
“At the same time, it would also be foolish to assume that Mr. Trump’s path to another presidency would be smooth and secure,” Conway wrote.
She said that this current White House bid would not be the same as his one successful run in 2016, “when he and his team had the hunger, swagger and scrappiness of an insurgent’s campaign and the ‘history be damned’ happy warrior resolve of an underestimated, understaffed, under-resourced effort.
“It’s tough to be new twice,” Conway added.
The novelty of Trump’s 2016 campaign aside, she touted what she said were his past accomplishments on the economy, energy and national security, among other areas. Conway also argued that Trump could draw in support in the Republican primary by attacking the Biden administration’s handling of the economy, border and crime.
“Mr. Trump has both political assets to carry him forward and political baggage holding him back,” Conway wrote. “For Mr. Trump to succeed, it means fewer insults and more insights; a campaign that centers on the future, not the past, and that channels the people’s grievances and not his own; and a reclamation of the forgotten Americans, who ushered him into the White House the first time and who are suffering economically under Mr. Biden.”
But Trump has never left much to the imagination when it comes to personal vendettas and how he feels about his critics, and this has not changed since he launched his 2024 campaign.
For example, he has repeatedly referred to former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who is married to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with a nickname that has been slammed as racially insensitive. Trump also frequently blasts fellow Republicans who oppose him as RINOs, meaning “Republicans in name only.”
Conway cast doubt in her essay about whether it is possible to get Trump policies without the Trump personality.
“It is true that limiting the name-calling frees up time and space for persuasion and solutions. Still, it may not be possible to have one without the other,” she wrote.
Matt Klink, a Republican strategist, also believes that Trump should be focusing on the future rather than the past as he eyes the White House.
“Mr. Trump has to put aside the negativity, the focus on 2020 and the Trump haters, and focus on making people’s lives better. He can, legitimately, talk about the strength of the Trump economy and historically low unemployment, particularly among minorities and women and his plans for the future,” Klink told Newsweek.
“For Mr. Trump, that’s the easy part. Voters still have ‘Trump fatigue’ in that seemingly every day of his presidency something popped up that stirred controversy, involved an insulting tweet or required someone in the administration to ‘clean-up’ a Trump misstatement. Voters, by and large, like Trump’s policies but his brash personality is tiresome and turns people off,” Klink added.
“For Mr. Trump, changing how he clearly chooses to lead his daily life, through controversy and confrontation, will prove to be a high obstacle,” Klink continued. “If he can do so—and that’s a big if—he may be a viable candidate. But, the jury is still out on his recognition that this is a problem and his willingness to change.”
Christopher Devine, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Dayton, told Newsweek Conway is correct in saying that Trump’s 2024 chances would be better if his campaign was more focused on policy than “personality and grievance.” However, this is just “wishful thinking,” Devine said, citing instances where Trump has failed to stay on script when speaking in front of a crowd or using social media.
“Other candidates with greater impulse control can stay on message for days, weeks, or even months at a time. But not Donald Trump,” Devine said. “And if Kellyanne Conway or anyone else thinks they’re going to change him now, they’re deluding themselves.”
Newsweek reached out to a Trump spokesperson for comment.
Update 1/13/23, 5:30 p.m. ET: This story was updated with comment from Christopher Devine.