LAS VEGAS — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has spent the past few days on the campaign trail claiming that the election could be “rigged.” Despite this conspiratorial talk, in a conversation with Yahoo News on Tuesday, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, insisted he would “accept” the results of the election. Conway also gave some hints of the strategy for Trump’s final presidential debate against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, which will be held Wednesday.
Conway’s promise that Trump, who is trailing in the polls, would “accept” election results came with a caveat. She also noted that asking questions about his response to the results “presumes” Clinton will win.
“Absent evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities and a close election, then yes, we’ll accept the results,” Conway said. “But we’re actually going to embrace the results, because we’re going to win the election.”
The final debate will be a major opportunity for Trump to improve his standing. This month, Trump has dropped in the polls amid fallout from the leak of a 2005 video that showed him bragging about trying to “grab” and “f***” women. After the video was published by the Washington Post on Oct. 7, multiple women came forward and accused Trump of inappropriate conduct and groping. Trump has denied all of the allegations.
Conway said Trump would attempt to shift the focus to Clinton’s record and her status as a former secretary of state, senator and first lady.
“This election is still in the last three weeks what it has always been, a very stark choice between past and future, between a typical politician and a successful businessman, between Washington outsider who can disrupt the system versus consummate Washington insider who benefits from the system,” Conway said.
Conway said that, in the debate, Trump would aim to show “that he stands with the 75 percent of Americans who say they want to take the country in a new and different direction.” To that end, Trump began pushing for congressional term limits on Tuesday. He also invited the mother of one of the victims of the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, to attend the debate. Conway suggested this is all part of an effort to “prosecute” Clinton’s record, which according to Conway, included failing to provide adequate security for the diplomatic facility in Benghazi.
“It just shows a level of incompetence and intransigence that just disqualifies her from being president of the United States. She’s had her chance, and all you have to do is look at her record and decide whether you think her experience is a positive or a negative,” Conway said of Clinton, adding, “It doesn’t matter how much experience it is, it matters what the quality has been. She needs to be held to account for her record as secretary of state, for her record, as U.S. senator, frankly, for her record as first lady because she tried to be very involved in policy.”
Conway went on to argue that Clinton and her campaign have tried to turn the election into a “referendum on Donald Trump” including his controversial comments and allegations about his past behavior. She said Trump would use the debate to show people “that it’s been ages since they heard from Hillary Clinton a positive, visionary, aspirational, optimistic, uplifting message or substantive issue position.”
“They are congenitally, physiologically incapable of answering a question about Hillary Clinton without saying ‘Donald Trump’ five times,” Conway said of Clinton and her surrogates.
Conway predicted that Clinton would be “losing in every state” if the campaign conversation were focused on her record rather than Trump’s cavalcade of controversies. She went on to note that Clinton has many advantages over Trump, including an army of high profile surrogates, a much larger war chest, and her pioneering status as the potential first female president. Conway also repeated Trump’s allegations that the media is biased against him and that emails hacked from Clinton’s campaign chairman and published by Wikileaks demonstrate this collusion.
“She just cannot get to 50 percent in any of these swing states and stay there. What is her problem already?” Conway asked of Clinton. “She has the current president and first lady, far more popular than she’ll ever be. … She has a past president she just happens to be married to, happens to also be her husband, She has unlimited amounts of money, unlimited cover from the mainstream media.”
Conway suggested that Clinton’s inability to have an even bigger lead over Trump in spite of these factors shows there’s still “something stopping the American people” from getting on board with Clinton. Though polls show Clinton leading among women, Conway argued her advantage should be stronger.
“I mean, why isn’t she at 65 percent of women or 60 percent of women? Why aren’t women marching in the street saying we must have the first female president? Where are they?” Conway asked.
Conway further suggested the press has been overly fixated on Trump’s myriad controversies.
“Come on, you’re a professional journalist. You know he’s more fun to cover,” Conway said of Trump. “He’s clickbait. He’s good for ratings. It’s a thrill a minute with us.”
Trump’s campaign has experienced extensive turmoil and leadership changes. There has been extensive speculation that Conway, a veteran pollster, was frustrated with his freewheeling approach, habit of commenting on hot button issues, and penchant for launching insults against his critics.
Conway fueled these rumors on Oct. 14 when she sent a tweet suggesting she was yelling for Trump to stick to policy issues in the back of the audience at an event where he attacked his female accusers. While Conway told Yahoo News she thinks Trump is “the best when he’s on issues,” she suggested that people should have a “sense of humor” about her tweet.
“Don’t read too much into it,” Conway said.