Kellyanne Conway has long had the ear of former President Donald Trump.
From her days as a pollster to managing the former president’s successful 2016 campaign to serving as a White House senior counselor from 2017 to 2020, Conway has been an important part of his inner circle.
During a phone conversation with Trump this summer, Conway, who was not formally on the 2020 campaign team, was decidedly blunt with the former president about where he went astray in his unsuccessful reelection bid, according to a new book by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, an early copy of which was obtained by Insider.
While Conway continues to enjoy a strong relationship with Trump, she also reminded the former president of the ordinary people who supported his campaigns and compared his 2020 bid to that of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee and political nemesis Hillary Clinton, which Woodward and Costa detailed in “Peril.”
But first, Conway told Trump that she wanted him to see her “as somebody else” and not just an advisor.
“I am a person, if not the person, close to you who did not take a dime, not a penny from your $1.4 billion reelection campaign,” she said.
Conway let Trump know that he needed to “get back to basics.”
“How did you win in the first place in 2016? You won because you have this connective tissue with people. The people are forgotten. You’ve elevated them,” she said, according to the book. “They actually benefited financially, culturally, emotionally. They had upward economic and social mobility while you were president. And they are the most hurt by your loss.”
She added: “They’re the most hurt because they’re the coal miners and the steelworkers and the energy workers. They’re the middle-wage people. They’re the ones who have not one kid, but three and four who now are going backward in their economic mobility.”
Conway then told Trump to nix the grievances about the 2020 election and start talking about China instead of last year’s presidential results in Georgia, according to the book.
The former president told Conway that he valued her advice and felt “nostalgic” regarding his 2016 campaign, when he was largely seen as a businessman and a political outsider.
“That’s why you’re going to be in charge of everything, honey, the next time,” Trump reportedly said, alluding to a potential 2024 bid.
Conway laughed and didn’t commit to any future plans, but told the former president what needed to change for him to regain electoral success.
“You were the underdog both times even though you were the president of the United States the second time,” she said. “But what you didn’t have this time was the hunger and the swagger. And you weren’t under-resourced and understaffed. If anything, Arlington became Brooklyn.”
The Trump 2020 campaign headquarters was in Arlington, Va., just minutes from the White House, while Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was based in Brooklyn.
When Trump asked Conway what she meant by her statement, she explained her reasoning.
“Trump 2020 resembled Hillary 2016. You had too much money, too much time, too much ego,” she said.
In 2016, Trump’s campaign and his super PACs raised roughly $600 million, compared to $1.2 billion for the former first lady and Secretary of State.
Trump has been flirting with a 2024 presidential run for months. While speaking with a group of New York City Police Department officers recently, he said of his eventual decision: “I think you’re going to be happy.”