Via Mediaite, the key bit comes at around 7:50, in the course of grilling Conway about the sexual assault allegations against Trump. Bringing her kids into it is a gratuitously nasty and personal way to try to shame her — it’s MSNBC, though, so act surprised — but, ironically, I think it’s also a nod at the fact that the media respects Conway more than other Trump surrogates. The rest of his inner circle, starting with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone, are longtime Trumpers and are thus seen by reporters, I think, as pied pipers of the “deplorables.” Conway is not. She’s soft-spoken, professional, a hired gun (she started the campaign working for a Cruz Super PAC, remember), and known to drop occasional public hints that she’s displeased when Trump acts especially self-destructive at his rallies. There’s no reason to think she’s an ardent nationalist instead of a mainstream Republican. The jab about having to face her kids isn’t a shot at her for being personally despicable, it seems to me, but more of a “you should know better” admonition. Anti-Trumpers on Twitter have taken to describing Conway lately as a “punch clock villain,” someone who works for a bad guy but doesn’t share his bad intentions. That’s what the anchor’s playing off of; you wouldn’t bother trying to shame someone who really is villainous. But that’s no excuse: It’s still nasty and gratuitous.
Conway does make some news here, by the way, right at the very beginning. Do you expect widespread voter fraud like your boss does, she’s asked? Nope, she replies. She said the same thing to Yahoo News in an interview:
“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.”
You’re getting a taste of Conway’s “punch clock” status there too, I think. Trump loyalists will have an incentive after the election to back him to the hilt when he cries “rigged!” since their political fortunes are tied to his. Cultivating a sense among his fans that the election was stolen is a way to cement their loyalty, which will pay off if/when TrumpTV or other media opportunities get off the ground. Since Conway will probably go back to working for other Republican candidates, she doesn’t have the same incentive. If anything, hers cuts the opposite way — she’ll go to bat for the party, and the party wants Trumpers reintegrated as proud Republicans who are looking forward to 2018, not backward. This is why I keep saying that Conway and Pence, in all probability, will be the two loudest spokesmen for the idea that the election wasn’t rigged after all. Pence has incentives similar to Conway’s: He can either go all-in on “rigging” with Trump’s base, which is staring at a ferocious beating at the polls next month, or he can try to move them past it and reshape the party for 2020. Pence, who was a staunch conservative up until the day Trump put him on the ticket, is punching a clock too.
Exit question: At one point here she says that #NeverTrumpers are costing Trump four to five percent in some places. Four to five percent? Four to five percent based on 2012’s turnout is on the order of five to six million votes nationally. Trump fans have spent the campaign arguing, not implausibly, that #NeverTrump is essentially six guys at National Review and the Weekly Standard plus a few bloggers like me. Unless Conway’s defining #NeverTrump as “anyone who really dislikes Trump,” I don’t know where she’s getting this figure.