Kellyanne Conway tells The Post she feels ‘blessed’ over White House gig
By Dana Schuster
On Tuesday, a presidential glass ceiling was broken — when Kellyanne Conway earned the distinction of being the first woman in history to run a winning campaign for the White House.
“It feels good,” Conway, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, told The Post. “I’m not a big gender-identity person, and I wasn’t hired for my gender, but it’s . . . a pretty cool thing to say to my three daughters and my son. Many women work really hard and never get their shot. I feel blessed to have gotten my shot.”
And this is just the beginning.
She announced on Thursday that she was joining the Trump administration after a tweet from journalist Gabriel Sherman suggested she was reluctant to do so because she didn’t want to give up her lucrative polling business.
“False,” Conway tweeted. “Could it be those ‘sources’ want the WH job I’ve been offered?”
She says she felt compelled to reply.
“I just thought it was an obnoxious tweet to put out there,” she explained. “What are your sources? I can be your source about me.”
She added that she’s ready and willing to move to Washington, DC.
“I will absolutely go somewhere for my highest and best use for this particular president and his administration — and I certainly will confer further with Mr. Trump in the upcoming days about what that is,” she said.
Not bad for having only been riding the Trump train for three months.
“I refer to it as ‘my semester abroad,’ ” Conway said with a laugh.
She was named Trump’s campaign manager on Aug. 17, weeks after being hired as a senior adviser. The billionaire had fired his two managers — Corey Lewandowski, who is said to have alienated Trump’s children, and Paul Manafort, who was tainted by reports that he received millions of dollars from a party associated with Vladimir Putin.
Conway, who has appeared on TV more than 1,200 times as a conservative pundit, initially was dismissed as a parlor trick.
In September, BuzzFeed ran an article headlined “The Myth of ‘Trump-Whisperer’ Kellyanne Conway,” suggesting her greatest asset to the campaign was being a woman whom the candidate could toss in front of cameras to help him gain trust among female voters.
But as Conway told the New Yorker in an October article: “I tell people all the time, ‘Don’t be fooled, because I am a man by day.’ ”
She insists she had faith in Trump’s ability to win from the get-go.
“I’m a student of Hillary Clinton’s,” she said. “I’ve been around a long time, and she has many gifts and many strengths, but risk-taking and coloring outside the lines is not one of them.
“The people have been telling pollsters for decades that they want someone who is an outsider, a disrupter, an independent voice who doesn’t owe anybody anything in Washington — and they finally got their wish with Donald J. Trump.”
Conway described the Trump team as ‘the walking wounded,’ taking flak from ‘critics and naysayers and, in this case, the so-called sophisticated data.’
Not that it was an easy path.
Conway described the Trump team as “the walking wounded,” taking flak from “critics and naysayers and, in this case, the so-called sophisticated data.”
Ironically, she said, all the hate propelled Trump’s campaign.
“The media and Clinton campaign created some sympathy for Donald Trump because the message was not subtle, it was an avalanche, indeed, an unprecedented deluge of negative, caustic, burn-it-to-the-ground anti-Trump messaging, and people don’t respond to that,” Conway said.
Conway herself is a spin master. When Trump went off script — way off script — during the first presidential debate, attacking Rosie O’Donnell and bragging that the housing crisis was “good business,” Conway simply changed the topic.
“I love the fact that he restrained himself tonight and he was a gentleman toward [Clinton],” she gushed to reporters that evening, according to the New Yorker. “He definitely could’ve gone . . . [and talked] about her husband and women, and he did not . . . Restraint is a virtue, and it is certainly a presidential virtue.”
Conway told the Washington Post that she deploys the same strategy with Trump that she uses on her children: Rather than fighting with him, she provides him a range of options to pick from so he feels in control. The only difference? She can’t restrict her boss’ electronics.
“It’s not my job keeping him off Twitter,” she said to The Post.
The White House is a far cry from Conway’s childhood home in Atco, NJ. She was raised by her mom — who cashed chips at the Claridge Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City — grandma and two single aunts. (Her father, a truck driver, and mother divorced when Conway was 2.) None talked about politics.
Her interest was piqued while covering politics for her high school newspaper. After hearing Ronald Reagan speak, Conway knew her destiny was with the GOP.
“He really touched me,” she told the New Yorker. “I liked the more uplifting, aspiration, yet tough-guy kind of thing.”
Conway got her law degree from George Washington University and in 1995 founded The Polling Company, with clients ranging from American Express to Newt Gingrich.
She was a belle of the Beltway, appearing on the cover of a Washington society magazine. In 2001, she married George T. Conway III, an attorney at white-shoe law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. The two moved into a condo at Trump World Tower, where she developed a rapport with her landlord.
“I sat on the condo board, and [Trump is] very involved in his condos,” she told the New Yorker. “Over the years, he would ask me my opinion about politics.”
The Conways eventually moved into a $6 million home in tony Alpine, NJ, where they raise their four children.
‘One of the most important things I tell my children is that hard work can pay off. You can’t quit. You can’t complain. You never claim it’s unfair or unequal.’
“One of the most important things I tell my children is that hard work can pay off. You can’t quit. You can’t complain. You never claim it’s unfair or unequal,” Conway said.
In 2015, when Trump began considering a presidential run, he turned to Conway. But she rebuffed him and went to work with Ted Cruz instead, running his super PAC, Keep the Promise 1. When Trump defeated Cruz in the primaries, Conway jumped ship to Trump, spearheading the Defeat Crooked Hillary PAC in June, before leaving to serve as one of Trump’s advisers.
“He won without the usual [DC] gravy train, which is very liberating,” Conway said. “Trump is threatening the very way people make their living in Washington — he threatened to rip the engines out and take the wheels off.”
But the question remains whether he’ll really be able to “drain the swamp” with rumored cabinet appointees including tainted politicians like Chris Christie, Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani.
While Conway wouldn’t comment on whether any of Trump’s offspring would be appointed to cabinet posts, she said, “We literally could not have run this campaign without the adult children.”
No doubt, Conway’s comfortable relationship with the Trump clan and the president-elect himself has proven to be one of her greatest assets.
“They have very good chemistry,” Gingrich told the New Yorker, adding that her predecessors had failed because they tried “to reshape him.”
Conway herself admits that her approach to Trump was unorthodox.
“Two things people need to learn is that when you try to apply conventional tactics to Donald Trump, you’ll be sorely disappointed,” she said. “And No. 2, don’t bet against Donald Trump.”