WASHINGTON – Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, argued that the Democratic Party does not have a “cohesive message” to take back the House but said “eyes are wide open” at the White House as the midterm elections inch closer.
Conway was asked to describe how she is advising the president to handle the midterm elections, given that many Democrats are predicting a blue wave.
“As far as I can tell, their only message is we are going to win and take over the House. They don’t have a cohesive message as far as I can see,” she told PJM at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday. “Many of them, I’ve read in the paper, have had to go home and explain to their constituents why they voted against historic tax cuts that has led to so much growth and prosperity and the five million or so bonuses and raises for those Americans at the over 500 companies who have stood up and done that for their employees.”
“They have to explain why they are voting against measures like that,” she added. “At the same time, our eyes are wide open. The party in power suffers grievance losses traditionally at the ballot box.”
Conway noted that “President Bill Clinton lost 54 seats, President Barack Obama lost 63 in the House and called it a shellacking – and he was right, it was.”
“They both went on to be successfully re-elected presidents, as was George W. Bush, but this president is committed to making sure that his members are able to go and tout the economic progress and the great strides that are happening that really wouldn’t happen without him here,” she said. “You wouldn’t have a 21 percent corporate tax rate. You wouldn’t have North Korea and South Korea talking to each other – and you know how we know that? He wasn’t here and you didn’t have that. He’s here and you do have that.”
Conway downplayed the slowed 2.3 percent economic growth for the first quarter of the year.
“We are not disappointed in the jobs numbers, in the growth numbers; the stock market is up over 30 percent since he was elected,” Conway said, adding that the tax reform package is working as intended. “We haven’t scratched the surface really yet of what it’s going to mean in capital and community investment and benefits to their employees and all that repatriated wealth, trillions of dollars of repatriated wealth; it’s truly remarkable.”
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer shared a similar view regarding the 2.3 percent economic growth figure, saying he’s not disappointed.
“I think you’ll see it revised upward. We’ve seen several quarters of above 3 percent, but it’s moving in the right direction,” he said.
When asked if Trump missed an opportunity by not speaking at the dinner again this year, Spicer replied, “No, not at all. I think the president made the right decision. This isn’t a forum that was enjoyable at all for him and I think, look, people want to get together and network, that’s fine, but having the president come here and just get ridiculed, it’s not a venue that I ever think is fair to Republicans.”
Spicer applauded the president for the progress in peace talks between North Korea and South Korea, but said the White House should proceed with caution.
“Going back to President Reagan, we’ve got to trust but verify,” he said. “I think all the steps that we’re seeing are in the right direction, but there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”
Spicer revealed that he’s working on developing a talk show.
“We may, hopefully, fingers crossed,” he said.
Jake Tapper, host of CNN’s “The Lead” and former senior White House correspondent for ABC News, explained how he would like to see reporters work together in the White House briefing room.
“This was true when I was there, too. I wish they would function more cooperatively. If somebody doesn’t get a question answered, I would like the next person called on to follow-up on the previous person’s question. So I feel that frustration now watching the briefings, but I felt it when I was there, too,” he said. “We should all be in it together, in a way, trying to get questions answered and not allowing press secretaries to use us to play off one another.”
Tapper said the shorter briefings are not a “good thing” because reporters have “lots of questions.”
“There are a lot of precedents being set that I don’t think are so great, especially when it comes to relationships between the White House and the press,” he said.
Tapper was asked if Trump skipping the dinner to attend a campaign rally was the right decision.
“I mean, at the end of the day, we’re supposed to have an adversarial relationship with the people in power and maybe it’s a good thing that he’s not here. And he doesn’t feel comfortable in a room full of journalists, and maybe it should be a precedent set forever for all reporters and people in power,” he said. “The argument that this dinner showed people in power too cozy with people reporting on people in power, maybe it’s good that it’s being shaken up.”