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Kellyanne Conway gives advisers some lessons from Trump's victory

The president-elect's campaign manager shared some observations at the MarketCounsel Summit that could be useful to advisers about making assumptions about one's target audience

Dec 6, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

By Jeff Benjamin

When a last-minute scheduling conflict prevented SkyBridge Capital founder and outspoken Donald Trump-supporter Anthony Scaramucci from meeting a speaking commitment Tuesday morning in Miami, attendees of the MarketCounsel Summit were given an inside look at the historic presidential campaign.

Kellyanne Conway, who managed President-elect Trump's campaign, might not be intimately familiar with the financial advice industry, but she still managed to share a few nuggets that could be useful for anybody prone to making assumptions when working with clients or potential clients.

On the seemingly blind-sided pundits and pollsters that completely missed the upset of Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton, Ms. Conway said people were assuming who the electorate was rather than listening to what the electorate wanted.

“In this election cycle, the big difference was between what may offend you and what affects you, and the cues were all right in front of us, but I think people were averting their gaze,” she said. “Voters have been telling us for decades what they want. And America made good on its 30-year desire to have a president with this job description, as an outsider who is a job creator and who is not political.”

Ms. Conway, who stepped in to become Mr. Trump's third campaign manager, said she channeled the campaign to focus on who Mrs. Clinton is and is not, and to make Mr. Trump's message about what his Democratic challenger is not.

“When Hillary Clinton said proudly that she hadn't driven a car in 20 years, that struck a lot of women who were stuck in traffic for maybe the third time that day,” Ms. Conway said. “She had a lot of advantages, but where were the women marching in the streets for the first female president of the United States?”

What Ms. Conway did see was “seven different paths to 270 electoral votes,” while the pundits could imagine just one narrow avenue.

(Related read: Knut Rostad: Trump adviser Anthony Scaramucci should apologize for DOL fiduciary rule remarks)

“People were being told you're this 'ist' or that 'ist' for supporting Donald Trump, and everybody was assuming the undecideds would vote for her, but they voted for him, because the undecideds were undecided because they didn't want to vote for her,” Ms. Conway said.

“It's a month later and it's still difficult for me to articulate what Hillary Clinton's core message was. It seemed like Donald Trump was talking to people and Hillary Clinton was talking about Donald Trump.”

Ms. Conway, who said she might continue to work for the Republican Party from “outside the White House,” highlighted what she saw as blunders by the Clinton campaign.

On the Clinton campaign's practice of showcasing celebrity endorsements and hosting free concerts at rallies, Ms. Conway said, “I never learned to be a good cook because I didn't want people coming for the food instead of the company.”

“But we saw people standing in the rain for hours to attend a Donald Trump rally, and the media kept assuming those people wouldn't come out to vote,” she said. “At the rallies people weren't saying they liked him on '[Celebrity] Apprentice,' they were asking him to bring jobs and build the economy.”

(Related read: Can Donald Trump breathe life into actively managed funds?)

On what Mr. Trump will be like as president, Ms. Conway said she can't speculate on his future on Twitter or other social media, but she expects him to be an open and an “actively traveling president.”

Asked if last month's presidential election has forever changed politics, Ms. Conway said, “I hope so, but I've seen this movie before. And the sequel is never as good as the original.”

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