In the primaries, Conway put her finger on Trump's general election problem. As the head of a super PAC supporting Ted Cruz — and funded by a family that invests heavily in Breitbart News — she was skeptical of Trump's efforts and viability in November.
"It would be a real shame to sacrifice this election to Mrs. Clinton, to Secretary Clinton, given... that she has a man problem," Conway said in an interview with CNN's Don Lemon earlier this year. She added, "If she were the nominee for the Democrats, we could recast the whole conversation about the gender gap not as a Republican Party's problem with women but as a Democratic Party's problem with men — unless you have her up against someone who is performing poorly among women."
Trump continues to perform poorly among white women, as we've noted repeatedly. In the most recent Post-ABC News poll, released this month, Trump and Hillary Clinton were essentially tied. Mitt Romney won the group by 14 points in 2012. In 2008, John McCain won the group by seven points.
Trump's problem is that Republican women are less supportive of him than Democratic women are of Clinton. (He also loses independent women in the Post-ABC polling.)
Conway came on to the Trump campaign originally precisely to address this problem, as our Danielle Paquette reported last month. So far, the effect has been limited.
What did pre-Trump Conway identify as his problems?
She acknowledged that Trump has some baked-in challenges. "He’s a thrice-married, non-churchgoing billionaire, and she gives him credibility with conservative women. It's a net positive,” Conway told The Post after Sarah Palin endorsed him.
But Trump was making things worse. In another CNN interview, Conway bemoaned Trump's feud with Cruz in which Trump tweeted an unflattering photo of Cruz's wife, calling it "out of proportion — and it also seems to me to be beside the point of what really matters." To Lemon, she explained that "women out there are telling pollsters they don't appreciate a leader who has to get the last word all the time, or uses certain words. It's starting to reflect in the polls about women."
"Voters have a reasonable expectation that their candidates have thought about policy, at least as deeply as they have," she said during an interview on "Charlie Rose." "And there are many grass-roots voters in the trenches who genuinely care about these issues and have thought them through and want a candidate who reflects their own point of view and their own hard work on these issues." Trump's numbers with Republican married women were "sliding," she said, in part because "they see him as not willing to put in the work on these issues."
Conway also disparaged Trump's excuses for struggling in the delegate total. After Cruz came from behind in the polling in Iowa to win, Trump claimed that Cruz had cheated — in much the same baseless way that he now argues that Clinton is trying rig the election. Conway pointed out that Cruz's success was a function of his "enormous ground game."
When Trump complained about losing delegates in Colorado after getting outworked by Cruz, Conway mocked stalwart CNN Trump advocate Kayleigh McEnany. "Is the reason that [Trump was] shut out of Colorado altogether is because the system was rigged or because nobody showed up to do the hard work?" she asked McEnany. (It was the latter.)
"I've been talking for a month about the value of data analytics, ground game and having infrastructure," she said after Trump was blown out in Wisconsin. But Trump was "not realizing it. Somebody should realize it. Smart people around him should realize it."
"He's saying the system is rigged," she said. "That's red meat, though, for his base. They are being screwed by the system, yet again."
Her assessments of Trump's challenges were correct: His failure to run a real campaign and his alienation of women were critical problems. Conway is now in charge of righting Trump's campaign ship — but while it will apparently continue to take on water in the form of Trump continuing to "be himself," which she blamed for alienating Republican women.
She has 82 days to turn her primary election critiques into general election solutions. To turn other skeptical Republican women into Trump advocates — or, at least, Trump voters.