Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd moderated a panel discussion about how the Republican Party can heal its wounds after a contentious race for the party’s 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
Panelist NBC chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell referred to House Speaker Paul Ryan who suggested likely party nominee Donald Trump should change his tone. However, co-panelist Republican strategist and pollster Kellyanne Conway reminded viewers of Ryan’s track record in a presidential contest, which included him on a ticket with 2012 GOP nominee former Gov. Mitt Romney having lost eight of nine swings states, including Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin by nearly seven points to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Partial transcript as follows:
TODD: We’re back.
So how does the Republican Party put this all back together?
It’s just interesting hearing from Jeff Flake, Kellyanne. I want to put up what Bill Bennett said. Bill Bennett — you know, you have Jeff Flake, Paul Ryan, they’re in one place,
Bill Bennett said this, “it’s not the time to be out there demanding all these things, trying to get Trump to suddenly become Reagan. Now is the time to surround him with good people and work with him at the convention.”
You said something interesting during the break. You said this is generational in the conservative movement. Explain.
CONWAY: Some of it is. You now have John McCain saying he’ll vote for Donald Trump.
TODD: Bob Dole.
CONWAY: Bob Dole, Newt Gingrich, Bill Bennett now. It is somewhat generational for them. They recognize hat it’s healthy for a party going through some growing pains to actually shed some of its skin.
But I also want to get back to Senator Flake’s interview, because I thought it was astonishing for this reason. Donald Trump just won 48 percent of the vote in the Republican primary, every single delegate in Flake’s home state of Arizona. He got 250,000 voters. And you just can’t ignore that.
I mean, his policies on immigration began in Jan Brewer’s Arizona. And so I think there’s a zeitgeist out there that some of the establishment of the Republican Party are still ignoring.
And I would say, when I think of Senator Flake, I also, who I respect enormously, I think of this whole class of 2010 that are up for re-election in the Senate in 2016 this year, they rode the Tea Party wave and now they have switched to decaf somehow. It’s like, your votes are so moderate, and if you look back…
BAI: They got into government.
CONWAY: Well, they got into government. And you look back, no, go back a year ago and look at their approval ratings and their re-elect numbers a year ago. They weren’t doing so well.
So, laying it just at the feet of Donald Trump I think is naive and inaccurate.
ROBINSON: You know, to your point about the generational divide, the idea that a bunch of senior figures are going to sit down Donald Trump down in a room and coach him up, I mean, this is insane. It’s not going to happen.
And more to that point, Trump knows it’s not going to happen. Trump is behaving as if this is his party now. And that’s what they’re up against.
MITCHELL: And when Paul Ryan was saying, you know, I want to hear a different tone, he does not want to hear what Donald Trump then went right out and did, which was to talk about Hillary Clinton, the philandering of Bill Clinton, how she was an enabler. He talked about murders involved in Whitewater. In that very next speeh, he was going in every direction that Paul Ryan didn’t want to hear.
He really wants to see whether Donald Trump can speak differently. And he’s not going to speak differently. He can say one thing when he’s on a teleprompter, and another when he’s out in front of a crowd, which is egging him on and reinforcing his basic instints.
And Newt Gingrich, you can put Gingrich on the ticket, which is part of what’s going on also, you know, put a running mate on who can help work with Congress. That is not going to change Donald Trump.
CONWAY: But as a Republican strategist here, I just have to say, Paul Ryan who I have great affection and admiration for, he was on the ticket last time. The Romney-Ryan ticket lost eight of the nine swing states. They lost his home state of Wisconsin by almost 7 points.
MITCHELL: I don’t think you can blame the running mate for what happened at the top of the ticket.
CONWAY: It’s fine, it’s just that you’ve had your chance last time. I mean, they got 5 percent of the African-American vote in Wisconsin. They’ve got beaten among Hispanics by 2-1. Is Trump going to do worse than that?
BAI: Kellyanne makes — whether meaning to, I think, makes a really — it’s an interesting point here, which is about, you know, for years, for cycles and cycles and cycles, the Republican establishment has basically said to the base of the Republican party, you lost. Swallow it. Get in line.
CONWAY: And we have.
BAI: Now they’re asked to get in line, and suddenly, but it’s not your party.
TODD: Wait a minute, you inherited, and Trump rightfully said, inherited it? I won it.
ROBINSON: I won it. I wont it. I did not inherit the party, I won it. And he’s right. He beat them. He beat them badly.
MITCHELL: Guy, look at where Hillary Clinton is going to be tomorrow. She’s going to be in Loudoun County, Virginia.
TODD: Actually today, I believe. I think they’re campaigning. I hink they start today.
MITCHELL: That is her tomorrow, Monday afternoon. Loudoun County, Virginia, that is where she is going to go for Republican and swing voters, for women — married women, older women, because she has not gotten the Millennials. She knows she’s got a big problem there. But that is where she is trying to fight a general election strategy.
TODD: Kellyane, I want you to have the last word on women.
CONWAY: She’s going to lose in West Virginia and Oregon.
TODD: But I want you to have the last word here on women. You have spent a lot of time polling women for the Republican Party, trying to help them with their problems with the gender gap. How does Donald Trump fix this gender gap issue?
CONWAY: He has to go on the issues.
And so — because so far, I think if Hillary Clinton runs a strict idealogical and identity politics campaign, she could lose. And she also have a problem among men. And I think part of what Donald Trump says on the stump is very machismo, because Hillary Clinton has the reverse gender gap. Men dislike her, don’t trust her and don’t want her to be…
TODD: Who is the majority in he country, though?
CONWAY: Of course they are.
And he will — I think he has to fight her on the issues, because the one thing that’s not going to change between now and November is who is the outsider and who is the insider. And this does seem to be an outsider’s election.
BAI: Boy, if he has to fight her on the issues, I don’t know.
CONWAY: But where has she been for 30 years.
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