How the Trump campaign is trying to regain ground

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Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager for 2016 Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump, speaks to members of the media in the spin room after the second U.S. presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., on Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined salacious charges about past sexual scandals with sober discussion of substantive topics during their second presidential debate Sunday night following a weekend of unprecedented crisis in the Republican nominee's campaign. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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JUDY WOODRUFF: We return now to the race for the White House, and we begin with Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway.

Kellyanne Conway, welcome back to the program.

Let me start with the average of all the national polls right now. You’re very familiar with it, Hillary Clinton five to seven points ahead. Donald Trump hasn’t been leading nationally since the end of July. You have state polls showing where he’s losing support even in states that are reliably Republican. Where do you see this race right now?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, Trump Campaign Manager: So, the race right now is one where we are going to try to start making up the gap, Judy, in terms of paid advertising.

We have been out-spent 7-1, 10-1 in some places and even more. And we now have — we have budgeted for a significant ad buy, particularly in the 10 or 11 states where we see this race headed. That would be a variety of states that President Obama carried twice. We’re trying to pierce that Democratic blue wall, which is a very real concern for any Republican presidential candidate.

And it’s also a matter of candidate investment, where Governor Pence and Mr. Trump are spending their days. That will also be focused on the 10 or 11 swing states. And then, finally, it’s the nuts and bolts. It’s the brass tacks. It’s always been, but just at a fever pitch now, working with the RNC to beef up and build out our ground game, our data operation, our field staff.

It’s been a fairly impressive collaboration. And now we’re just — we’re moving people around, some of our talented folks in states that we look like we will win or that Mrs. Clinton will win, and we’re deploying people into those 10 or 11 states.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, The Wall Street Journal reporting today that, in effect, your campaign has given up on getting voters beyond the base of the Republican Party, that you’re focusing on that base, on getting them out and on depressing voters who are committed to Hillary Clinton.

Is that the strategy you have decided on?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: No, that would actually not be a winning strategy.

Of course, each of the candidates has to excite their base. And Donald Trump’s done a much better job of that. He owns the enthusiasm, the momentum, the big crowds that you see every day, Judy, at these rallies, at these forums. And then he also is trying to get those independents.

So, the goal for us is to increase the number of Republicans who are supporting Mr. Trump. In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, he’s up at about 85 percent. So is Mrs. Clinton. Get that over 90 percent. Get more of those independents, of course, women, millennials, some of those harder-to-reach audiences.

But also we do see — we do see that Hillary Clinton’s having a hard time enthusing her base. She has a very popular president and first lady out, the Obamas out there, there trying to campaign for her, but so far their popularity has not been transferable to her.

You read all these articles about the difficulty her campaign is having enthusing some of the Obama coalition for her.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But don’t you also have a problem with your base? You now have a number of prominent Republicans who are saying they’re not going to support Donald Trump both in Congress and among the governors. Isn’t this a serious drag now on the campaign?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: We have to take the case directly to the voters, including in the states, Judy.

And I would take note that, just today, you have a number of them, senators, saying, well, OK, I changed my mind, I actually am going to vote for him, because what happened in the case of some of them, I guess Joe Heck in Nevada, Deb Fischer in Nebraska, I saw John Thune in North Dakota, the fourth highest ranking senator for the Republican Party majority in Washington, they all said, well, yes, we’re going to support him, somewhat side — taking a side — a step backward from what they had said over the weekend.

So I think what happens is, they hear from some of their voters saying, look, we want you to support the presidential nominee, and we want you to run as a ticket. So — but, look, Donald Trump just has to take his case directly to the voters, including in states where the elected officials say that they’re not going to endorse him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, what is — what we know has turned off not only Republican elected officials, but traditionally Republican voters, is that video/audiotape with “Access Hollywood,” where we heard Donald Trump speaking of grabbing a woman sexually.

We heard him speaking about trying to have sex with a married woman, about, because you are a celebrity, you can get away with it.

You, Kellyanne Conway, have children yourself. Were you offended by that?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Yes. It wouldn’t matter if I have children or not. It actually doesn’t matter if I’m a woman or not. Of course I was offended.

I agree with Donald Trump and Melania Trump and Mike Pence on this. The comments are offensive and reprehensible. Nobody had been asked to defend them, and nobody should. I’m glad that Donald Trump apologized.

And I was with him when it was revealed that this tape existed. And I saw immediately a man who you saw publicly apologizing, asking for forgiveness, and then also saying that he will resolve to go forward and continue to fight this election on the issues that he’s been fighting all along.

We don’t — he doesn’t agree with President Obama and Hillary Clinton that ISIS is in retreat and they’re the J.V. team and our — quote — “determined enemies.” He doesn’t agree with handing over three or four Supreme Court justice nominations to Hillary Clinton or the domestic economy, where she has promised to raise taxes and increase regulations.

He doesn’t agree with her position on Obamacare, which has not helped millions of Americans it was intended to help.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, these stories, though, continue to come, The Washington Post reporting today about Donald Trump doing an interview with Howard Stern in 2005 talking about walking in on the contestants at a Miss USA Pageant where they weren’t dressed. And he said, “I can do that because I own the pageant.”

Another story about — today about — in the late 1990s, walking in on contestants at a Miss Teen USA Pageant.

How much more of this do you think is there out there?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: I don’t know. But I do know that, to be fair, because I just never — frankly, you just don’t see the equal coverage, respectfully.

I do know what Hillary Clinton was doing all those decades also. And she’s been lying then and she is lying now. I mean, the idea that we’re not going to talk about what she was doing in the 1990s, including naming and shaming these women in her husband’s lives, the way she treated women all then, the way she lied about Whitewater, the way she lied about being under sniper fire in Bosnia, the way she lied to the Benghazi families, I mean, she has a real veracity problem, Judy.

And we know that voters believe honesty and trustworthiness is also a qualification for president. And many voters don’t think she is qualified or she is fit, based on her record as secretary of state, based on her unremarkable record as a United States senator, and based on her casual relationship with the truth.

And I think it’s important for us to talk about both candidates and their vulnerabilities. We just simply don’t see it from a sheer content analysis day by day.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Very quick last question. A voter at a Mike Pence rally yesterday said, “If Hillary Clinton wins this election, we need to have a revolution.” He said, “No, that’s wrong, we don’t.”

How does Donald Trump see that?

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Well, I agree with Governor Pence.

And I’m so glad that he had the presence of mind to say that, meaning, sometimes, you’re in a rally, you don’t really hear what people say completely. I’m so glad Governor Pence immediately told her no.

I echo that. And I will tell you that Donald Trump has said time and again that he wants to win, he wants to be the president of the United States to enact all this change and disrupt Washington, Judy, but if he doesn’t win, he will support Hillary Clinton as the president. We all will.

We love this country. And our love for the country and its people transcends partisan politics. That’s very clear. But I will tell you, over the next four weeks or so, less now, we will be fighting, leaving it all on the field, to win this election. And if Hillary Clinton prevails, then we will respect that and we will work with her as president of the United States.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Kellyanne Conway, who is the campaign manager for Donald Trump, we thank you very much.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Thank you, Judy.

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