Kellyanne Conway, new campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 17, 2016.
Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP

Even Trump’s campaign manager rejects his ‘rigged’ argument

Donald Trump isn’t just heavily invested in arguing that the U.S. system of elections is “rigged” against him, he’s also dumbfounded as to why other Republicans aren’t endorsing the thesis.

“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” the GOP nominee said on Twitter this week. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”

MSNBC Live with Stephanie Ruhle, 10/19/16, 9:39 AM ET

Trump Campaign Manager: ‘Clinton’s not an American success story’

Trump Campaign Manager, Kellyanne Conway, joins MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle to discuss Donald Trump’s new debate strategy, which includes inviting President Obama’s half-brother to the debate, and why she believes Hillary Clinton “isn’t an American success…
As it turns out, Trump hasn’t necessarily persuaded his own campaign manager. Kellyanne Conway sat down this morning with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle and the interview began with an interesting exchange.
RUHLE: Without talking about the media or Hillary Clinton, just voting, going to the polls in this country, do you believe there will be widespread voter fraud?

CONWAY: No, I do not believe that. So, absent overwhelming evidence that there is, it would not be for me to say that there is.
Trump’s campaign manager went on to say there are instances in the past of voting irregularities “here and there.” Conway added, “But I think Donald Trump’s point is a larger one.”

Actually, I think Trump’s point is far more specific than Conway suggests. The Republican candidate insists without proof that “there is large scale voter fraud happening” – a baseless assertion he’s made several times, in print and on the stump – and his own campaign manager disagrees.

In the same interview, Ruhle asked whether it’s fair for Trump to “mislead the American people” with rhetoric about a “rigged” election that isn’t actually rigged. Conway again insisted that “everybody’s missing his larger point” about the need for reforms in the system.

But if that is the message Trump is trying to get across, isn’t it the candidate himself who’s missing the “larger point”? The Republican nominee has spent an enormous amount of time throwing around bizarre allegations – voting is rigged, as are the polls, the debates, the primaries, media coverage, etc. – failing entirely to present a coherent message on systemic reforms. He then complains bitterly when Republicans dare to defend the system accurately.

Or put another way, if Conway knows American elections are fair, and the integrity of the voting system shouldn’t be called into question, can she explain why her candidate keeps saying the opposite?

Also note, this is the second time Conway has publicly disagreed with Trump this week – and it’s only Wednesday. On Monday, she was asked on MSNBC about her candidate criticizing the appearance of some of the women who’ve accused him of sexual misconduct.

“It’s not how I would answer the question,” Conway conceded.

Let’s note for context that Conway is a longtime Republican pollster and strategist, and she very likely intends to continue her career if/when Donald Trump loses the presidential election. It’s this dynamic that creates an interesting set of incentives for Conway to occasionally distance herself from her boss, even as the campaign enters the home stretch.

Donald Trump

Even Trump's campaign manager rejects his 'rigged' argument